January 5, 2014 has come and gone and with it came some pretty big changes in Wisconsin’s eligibility for unemployment benefits. There has been an increase in maximum weekly benefits from $363 to $370. Whoop, whoop. I know.
The biggest change isn’t in the benefits a worker may be eligible for, but whether the worker is entitled to benefits at all. Employers now have a new arsenal of tools to challenge whether benefits should be paid. The first is the new two-tiered analysis of whether an employee was terminated for misconduct or substantial fault. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development,
“An employee’s behavior may be substantial fault when the employee violates a requirement of the employer but the violation does not rise to the level of misconduct. Substantial fault does not include: minor violations of rules unless the employee repeats the violation after warning, unintentional mistakes made by the employee or not performing work because the employee lacks skill, ability, or was not supplied the equipment.”
Previously, an employee who quit was generally ineligible for benefits unless she could show that she fell into one of eighteen exceptions that would reinstate benefits. Those exceptions have changed too. Four of them have been modified and eight have been eliminated.
With new language will come new interpretations and arguments. Cases will work their way through the DWD and off into the Court System to help define these new rules and regulations. The important thing for employers to know right now is that the changes are here. If an employee requests unemployment benefits you should go to the DWD website to see if you might have a basis for challenging the application. Or read through 2013Act20 Plain Language to see if it helps answer your questions. If you are unsure, contact Kirk Law Office of Superior, WI for a no cost consultation on unemployment eligibility, the unemployment claim process and your options as an employer.
Johanna R. Kirk