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AIM backs Senate employment bills

Associated Industries of Missouri Wednesday spoke in favor of Missouri Senate bills that help business owners deal with unemployment payment issues.

Senate Bill 28 redefines misconduct for which an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits. Current state law puts the burden on employers to prove that employee misconduct includes a wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest and a disregard of standards of behavior the employer has the right to respect.

Employers must currently also prove an employee acted intentionally and with substantial disregard of the employer’s interests to qualify as misconduct.

Senate Bill 28 changes standards to an employee acting with knowing disregard.

The bill disqualifies employees from unemployment benefits if the employee violates an employer’s rule.

The bill defines misconduct as violating a no-call, no-show policy, chronic absenteeism, tardiness, unapproved absences following a written warning, and a knowing violation of a state standard or regulation that could cause the license of an employer to be sanctioned.

Currently, workers are disqualified from benefits if they voluntarily leave work without good cause. The bill defines good cause as that which would compel a reasonable employee to cease working or which would require separation from work due to illness or disability.

“This bill is an important step to help employers deal with runaway unemployment costs,” said AIM president Ray McCarty. “To allow former workers to get away with chicanery of a high level and still get state benefits is certainly not healthy for employers.”

Yesterday, McCarty testified in favor of a bill that would shorten the duration of state unemployment benefits from 20 to 10 weeks from now until the end of the calendar year. The move would allow the state to catch up with payments to the state system that is now nearly $600 million in debt to the federal government.

State unemployment payments have continued to unemployed workers, but the state has borrowed from the federal government to make these payments.  Employers are paying the bill through the loss of Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) credits, meaning all employers are paying higher federal unemployment taxes. Senate Bill 458, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) would reduce stress on the unemployment fund by reducing the number of weeks for which claimants may receive benefits from 20 weeks to 10 weeks.

“The state unemployment system is broke and broken,” said McCarty. “We need to bite the bullet and take care of the FUTA payments under Senate Bill 458. Then with passage of Senate Bill 28, we can bring runaway growth of unemployment payments and make sure the funds are preserved for the unemployed that truly are employed through no fault of their own.”

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