In Public Act 269 of 2011, which became effective on December 28, 2011, the Republican Legislature passed and Governor Synder signed a bill that will make it tougher for workers to collect unemployment benefits. Here is a link to an analysis and summary of the new law prepared by Legislative Analyst Suzanne Lowe.
New Obligation to Document Efforts to Find Work. The law was passed to address financial shortfalls within Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”). While most of the provisions went into effect immediately, the new law’s change in the definition of what it means to be looking for work goes into effect on January 1, 2013. Starting then, an individual must conduct “a systematic and sustained search for work in each week he or she was claiming benefits.” The search must also be documented using one of the following methods:
• Reporting at monthly intervals on the UIA's online reporting system.
• Filing a written report with the UIA by mail or fax by the end of the fourth week after the end of the week in which the individual engaged in the work search.
• Appearing at least monthly in person at a Michigan Works Agency office to report.
The new law also changes and adds some definitions with regard to activities that will disqualify an employee from unemployment benefits.
No Call - No Show for 3 Days. The new law provides that an individual who is absent from work for a period of 3 consecutive work days or more without contacting the employer in a manner acceptable to the employer and of which the individual was informed at the time of hire shall be considered to have voluntarily left work without good cause attributable to the employer. Employees who leave work without “good cause attributable to the employer” are disqualified from benefits.
Theft, Assault and Battery or Willful Destruction of Property. The new law provides that an employee who has been discharged for an act of assault and battery connected with the individual’s work is disqualified for benefits. A discharge for “theft connected with the individual’s work” also disqualifies an employee from benefits as does a discharge “for willful destruction of property connected with the individual’s work.” Before the new law, the standard for disqualification was “a deliberate indifference of the employer’s best interests.” Courts and the UIA appeal board had come to different conclusions on specific acts that met this definition. The new law attempts to give examples of acts that meet this definition and appears to reduce the discretion of the administrative law judges who decide appeals from determinations and re-determinations of the UIA.
There are many other changes to the law that apply to employers, but this post highlights some of the more significant changes to the law affecting employees.