Monday, May 6, 2013

Commonsense Unemployment Benefit Reform

With the end of Session approaching, the House is putting the finishing touches on several important pieces of legislation. One of these Senate bills, SB 28, modifies eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits.

Current law states that in order to qualify for benefits, an individual must lose their job through no fault of their own, or they must quit for a good cause related to their work or their employer. If a person is fired because of misconduct, they do receive unemployment. The trouble is that the current definition does not specify what offenses constitute misconduct. This results in abuse of the system.  Senate Bill 28 simply places into statue what is already common sense: there are certain behaviors that reasonably result in termination, and the state should not pick up the tab for these individuals.
Under the revised law, misconduct occurs when an employee knowingly violates the standards of behavior expected by the employer. The clarified definition of misconduct also includes chronic absenteeism or tardiness. This is an essential provision of the bill, because chronic absenteeism hurts a company’s productivity, and makes the worker a liability, not an asset, to the workplace environment. We should not be rewarding such behavior with unemployment benefits.

If an individual is working for a state-licensed entity, misconduct also includes knowingly violating state laws or regulations. These kinds of violations not only harm the employer’s interests, but could result in the workplace having its license or certification revoked. Again, these actions should not be rewarded. 
Reform of our unemployment benefits system is a necessity in the present economy. Missouri’s unemployment insurance system is currently more than $500 million in debt. By reasonably tightening the eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance, Senate Bill 28 will allow this program to become financially sound more quickly.
Unemployment insurance, like other state benefits, was created as a safety net. This particular safety net is for those employees who are terminated because of company-wide cuts, for unjust cause, and for other reasons that are not the fault of the employee. By preventing just anyone from falling into the net, we are strengthening the system for those who need it.

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