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Employee misconduct bill heads to governor’s desk

The Missouri House Wednesday passed and sent to Governor Nixon’s desk a bill aimed at helping employers with unemployment payment issues.

By a margin of 98-57, the House gave final passage to Senate Bill 28. The changes the definition of employee misconduct to knowing disregard of company rules. Currently, state labor laws read that the employee can only be disqualified for unemployment benefits if their job was terminated due to wanton or willful disregard.

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

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.

The bill is designed to cut down on the amount of unemployment claims awarded to terminated employees throughout the state every year. Business owners in the House of Representatives said they need relief.

“Here’s the problem, we need to do something because all of a sudden in the last five years, we are losing claims at a much faster rate than before,” said Rep. Lynn Morris (R-Christian County) during floor debate Wednesday.  Morris owns a chain of pharmacies that employs more than 300 people throughout southwest Missouri.

“We’ve had people stealing medications, shorting people, treating our customers poorly, and we lose our unemployment appeals,” said Lynn. “We’ve had legitimate reasons to safeguard our company and the public, and we can’t do it, because when we discharge someone, they still get unemployment.”

Currently, the state’s unemployment insurance fund is hundreds of millions of dollars in the red to the federal unemployment insurance stabilization fund. Proponents of the legislation say the state could save up to $500 million by enacting the components of the legislation.

Associated Industries of Missouri has advocated on behalf of Missouri business owners on this issue for a number of years.

“This bill is an important step to help employers deal with runaway unemployment costs,” said AIM president Ray McCarty. “The pendulum has swung too far in favor of the terminated employees, and to allow the current situation to continue is certainly not healthy for employers.”

The bill is now in the hands of Governor Nixon. He has until July 14 to make a decision on whether or not to sign the legislation, or veto it.

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