Coming Back

Employers pleased to see employees returning after lockdown
By 
Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Friday, May 15, 2020
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Ty Robertson paints the poker room at the Eagles Club Thursday afternoon. Robertson said he’s happy to have the opportunity to paint and do routine maintenance during this time of uncertainty. “The paycheck helps,” he said.
Photo by Charlie Denison

It might be an uncertain time, and there may be cases of COVID-19 still popping up in the state and nation, but here in Central Montana employees are ecstatic to get back to work.
Tony Brown, owner of Doc’s, said he’s pleased to see all his staff return.
“Everyone came back,” he said,” and we’re excited to be back in full swing.”
Brown said his employees feel safe returning to his bar, restaurant and casino, as safety guidelines are in place and social distancing is enforced.
Harry’s Place owner Kim Ferrell said most of her employees came back, although one of her employees took a job elsewhere, but operations are back in full swing and she has plenty of staff to serve the public safely.
Ferrell said, however, that she thinks the $600-a-week supplement to furloughed employees should be more selective.
“Some of my employees who are in high school received this supplement, which surprises me,” she said. “They don’t need it to pay rent.”
Montana Tavern and Western owner Mike Lamphier said he’s losing a few employees as a result of the global pandemic, and their reasons are health-related and not affiliated with additional income from unemployment.
“One employee in particular classifies as high-risk,” he said. “They are well past retirement age and don’t feel comfortable working with the public.”

It is paramount for employees to feel comfortable, and employers are doing what they can to make sure that’s the case. On the other hand, if employees do not feel comfortable, employers understand.
“We have one employee who is pregnant and they are not returning at this time,” said Elks restaurant/bar manager Kris Gapay. “We want all our employees to be safe and to take any precautions they feel are necessary.”
Employers are also finding ways to bring employees back to work without working directly with the public. For example, at the Eagles, Ty Robertson is painting and doing routine maintenance. Right now things are still relatively slow at the bar, but manager Teresa Lamphier expects things to pick up. In the meantime, there is still work to be done.
“I’m grateful,” said Robertson. “I was getting unemployment, and was even getting the $600-a-week surplus, but I’m glad to be working.”
Teresa is also glad to have Robertson and others on board to paint, reorganize and fulfill other duties. She wants to take care of her employees and “do whatever it takes” to stay open and keep her employees safe – and busy. However, like many other employers, Teresa is not seeing everyone come back, as a few employees in the high-risk category are steering clear for the time being.
Job Service Workforce Consultant Christine Solheim said, however, even with the added $600 to Unemployment Insurance benefits, those in contact with Job Service have expressed a strong desire to return to work.
“As businesses re-open and employees return to work, I am seeing an increase in the number of job seekers looking and applying for work,” Solheim said. “I am also posting more positions for employers. As of now there are more than 135 open positions in Lewistown.”
There might be uncertainty, but there is also opportunity, and Solheim encourages those without work to seek a position that suits them.
Many employers share this sentiment, such as Brown, as he remains optimistic that more businesses will reopen and cases will remain low in the state. Brown said the alternative would have dire economic consequences.
“We’ve got to get people back to work,” he said. “We don’t want to lose businesses here. It’d be the worst thing for us.”
Available jobs in Lewistown can be viewed at www.montanaworks.gov. For more information, contact Solheim at (406) 538-8701 or by email at lewistownJSC@mt.gov.

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