(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Annette Semerdjian)

Kymberly Clay has worked for the Port of Long Beach for nearly 30 years. Clay started out as a clerk supervisor within the port’s human resources (HR) division, eventually working her way up to the position of leave management administrator and payroll personnel supervisor. “The most important thing the port did for me [was that] it revealed my passion – my passion is in disability management and helping employees to be able to stay at work, return to work and find a life-blend with their jobs,” Clay said. Her responsibilities include handling employee relations, payroll and benefits, and other HR-related duties. Clay assists employees, including those dealing with illnesses, in understanding their rights and what they are entitled to, such as workers’ compensation, pregnancy disability leave and other programs. “Dealing with employees with chronic and terminal illness, at times it can be difficult when I am trying to balance or blend their medical condition with the operational needs,” she said. “Making sure the law is applied appropriately is critical.” Clay considers being named employee of the year in 2008, becoming the board president and secretary of the Disability Management Employer Coalition’s Southern California chapter and receiving professional certification in her field through the port’s employee reimbursement program as highlights of her career. “What we do is we treat people as most important,” Clay said. “We’ll help guide you to be successful and we’ll guide you to be a change-maker, and we make sure that nobody feels like they’re a hidden figure.”