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On January 5, 2014, several substantial and employer-friendly changes to Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance law will take effect as a result of 2013 Wisconsin Act 20. The Act changes key eligibility issues and adds several examples of misconduct.
The eligibility changes increase the required attempts to find work from two to four per week in order to continue receiving unemployment insurance. If the former employer is a temp agency, the claimant must contact the temp agency about available assignments weekly.
The Act adds a new type of misconduct – “substantial fault.” “Substantial fault” occurs when an employee violates an employer’s work rule, unless the violation was the result of an honest mistake, the lack of skill or ability, and/or a minor rule infraction. For example, employees who knowingly ignore work rules may be ineligible for unemployment compensation if ignoring the work rule causes significant damage to employer property. Of course, the employer will still have to prove that he knew of the work rule and chose to ignore it.
The Act also adds specific examples to the definition of “misconduct,” including:
- Stealing and/or allowing substantial damage to an employer’s property;
- Conviction of a crime that precludes the individual from employment (even if committed while off duty);
- Threats/acts of harassment or physical violence instigated by the employee while at work;
- Absenteeism on more than two occasions within 120 days before the date of termination;
- Falsifying business records; and
- Deliberately violating a federal/state standard or regulation that would cause the employer to be sanctioned or to have its license or certification suspended by the agency.Although these changes do not necessarily change unemployment law as we know it, they do affect eligibility for benefits – and should help employers win claims they may previously have lost under similar circumstances.
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