Florida Unemployment Compensation Reform is here!

October 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, New employment laws/amendments, Unemployment | Leave a comment

Employers and Employees in Florida have a new set of rules for unemployment compensation claims.  The reform changed the application requirements and the eligibility criteria for continued benefits for former Employees claiming benefits.

The bulk of the Reform applies to terminations occurring on August 1, 2011 or later.  The Reform is NOT  retroactive.

Former Employees who were terminated after August 1st, 2011, and who seek unemployment compensation benefits after August 1st 2011 are now required to participate in an initial skills review using an online education or training program as part of reporting for benefits;

Former Employees must now make a systematic and sustained effort to find work, and must contact at least five prospective Employers each week – or report in person to a One-Stop Career Center to meet with a representative for reemployment services each week; and,

Terminations occurring on or after August 1, 2011, former Employees must file claims by Internet at http://www.floridajobs.org, rather than by phone or mail.

The Reform changed the standard to reduce misconduct from “willful” (a very high standard indicating intent) to “conscious” (a lower standard).

“Misconduct” now can include the off-duty conduct of an employee.

The Reform adds a disqualification for any weeks in which an individual receives severance pay from an employer if the severance pay per week is equal to or greater than the former Employee’s weekly benefit amount, the former Employee is not entitled to benefits for that week.  There is no reduction in the amount of total unemployment compensation benefits (credits) that can be paid on the claim. For example, if the former Employee were determined eligible for $6,325 of available benefits (credits), the former Employee would still be eligible for that same amount unless your benefit year expires before the former Employee exhausts that total.

As for the revisions to the definition of “misconduct” under the reform now includes:

Former Employees can be disqualified for benefits misconduct in connection with a job whether or not the conduct happens at the workplace or during working hours;

Misconduct is no longer restricted to “a willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests,” but is now determined to be “a conscious disregard of an employer’s interests and found to be in deliberate violation or disregard of the reasonable standards of behavior which the employer expects of employees.”

Misconduct also now includes:

Chronic absenteeism or tardiness;

Willful and deliberate violation of a standard or regulation which would jeopardize the employer’s Florida license or certification; and,

Violation of an employer’s rule under certain circumstances.

The above is NOT an all-inclusive list of misconduct!

All individuals establishing a new unemployment claim, filing additional claims or reopening an existing claim on or after July 1, 2011 must receive benefits through either the new Florida Unemployment Compensation Debit Card or via direct deposit to the claimant’s bank account.

For more information about Florida’s new debit card system, see:
http://www.floridajobs.org/unemployment/UC_faqs_debitcard.htm

Significantly for Employers defending against unemployment compensation claims, the Reform repeals language which requires that unemployment laws be liberally construed in favor of a claimant.

Employers who have published and promulgated procedures in place, such as handbooks, will be in a better position to defend against claims where the Employee is terminated due to failure to follow the Employer’s policies.

 

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