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Senate gives final passage to unemployment compensation bill

By a vote of 22-9, the Missouri Senate Thursday gave final approval to legislation that changes the definition of “misconduct” in the determination of who is eligible for unemployment payments.

SB 510, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), redefines “misconduct” for which an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits. The act states that misconduct would exist if the employee acts in knowing disregard of employer policies, interests and standards.

Under the act, a violation of an employer’s rule is misconduct unless the employee demonstrates that he or she did not know and could not reasonably know the requirement, the rule is unlawful, or it is not fairly or consistently enforced.

Misconduct also includes a violation of 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 by an employee of a licensed employer which would cause the employer to be sanctioned.

The misconduct standard shall apply when the conduct is connected to work irrespective of whether it occurs at the workplace or during work hours.

Currently, employees are disqualified from benefits if they voluntarily leave work without good cause. The act 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.

While supportive of the need to reform the payment of unemployment claims, Associated Industries of Missouri is also approaching this bill with caution to be sure it does not run afoul of federal laws regarding unemployment.  If the bill conflicts with federal law, Missouri employers could lose all Federal Unemployment Tax Act credits against their federal unemployment taxes.  AIM and the state and federal departments of labor are currently reviewing the language.

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