In this remarkable era of coronavirus legislative relief from Congress, many new laws are impacting employers. This naturally is very stressful because there is suddenly "a new normal" about so many aspects of the workplace. Employers are being asked to adapt very quickly to a virtual ocean of new legislation, and the unemployment insurance area is one of those areas deeply impacted.
Yesterday, Congressional leaders passed a historic federal stimulus package in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The bill now travels to The House of Representatives for approval before being signed by President Trump. The legislation includes a new pandemic unemployment assistance program, which would provide unemployment insurance benefits to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of the virus and don't qualify for traditional benefits. This includes independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig workers, who typically aren't eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
In 2013, the Wisconsin legislature tightened the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits as they related to discharges for attendance. Under the previous law, an employee had to have "5 or more" absences without notice in a twelve-month period in order for his/her absenteeism to rise to the level of statutorily-defined misconduct. The legislature reduced that level to "more than 2 [absences] within a 120-day period . . . unless otherwise specified by [the] employer in an employment manual. . ." Wis. Stat. § 108.04(5)(e). (The employee must also have failed to provide both notice and a valid reason for the absence.)