News & Press

Disciplinary Discharge of Employees on Workers’ Compensation

It is a common practice for employers to avoid discharging employees who violate policy if they are receiving workers compensation benefits and thereby working a modified duty assignment, but it is very important that these employees are held to the same standards as their workmates, including compliance with applicable policies and procedures.

In a recent case, a nursing assistant who had been injured at work and was therefore restricted to working in a modified duty capacity was discharged for working beyond the limitations of her employment. After receiving a prior warning, she continued to perform tasks that were not part of her job description and which required additional qualification. As a result, she was also denied her request to reinstate her workers’ compensation benefits.  This case supports the unemployment practice of treating all employees fairly and equally in accord with their company policies and provides additional support for employers who are unsure of their obligations in cases involving employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

Read the Full Case Details Here: https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/4382769/i-waugh-v-wcab-st-mary-medical-center/

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Unemployment Rates Drop While New Challenges Come Up

Massachusetts – The Bay State’s unemployment rate has dropped significantly in the past eight years, from 8.2% in August 2009 to under 4% in 2017. Some of the highest rates in August 2009 belonging to the towns of Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester all reported dramatic decreases in 2017 by almost half of their 2009 rates. Lawrence is now under 8%, Worcester is at 4.5% and Springfield is at 6.8 %. Although this is great news for the Massachusetts economy, there is one contributing factor that should not be ignored. The rate of individuals who are “underemployed” (U6 rate) in the state of Massachusetts remains high. In fact this rate has now surpassed the levels prior to the recession. Individuals who fall into this U6 category may not possess the skills necessary to find full time work and are therefore only employed part time or have stopped searching for employment all together. This is a very important factor that will remain in focus as the Unemployment rates continue to be monitored.

For More Information on this Discussion: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2017/05/24/jobless-rates-drop-in-bay-states-smaller-cities.html?ana=e_me_set1&s=newsletter&ed=2017-05-24&u=%2FmVb%2BsU0iPFgDh%2Bpw2oEjQ00aa1b50&t=1495633627&j=78243601

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UTCA Introduces New Client Referral Program

Over the years, UTCA has grown through the enthusiastic endorsement of our services from word of mouth referrals. UTCA clients are outspoken and passionate about our program and for that we are humbled and grateful. In return, we have now developed a “Client Referral” program to reward clients who vocalize their opinions through a referral, where new business is secured.

Effective immediately, UTCA is offering a generous annual fee credit for any new client referral resulting in a signed contract and initial payment. Our clients have long been a consistent and enthusiastic source of referrals, thus we will now incentivize their endorsements by rolling out this Rewards Program!

Clients with questions on the program or who would like to make a referral are encouraged to reach out to Business Development Coordinator Michael Williams, at mwilliams@utcainc.com or Director of Operations Meghan Avery at mavery@utcainc.com for more information.

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Unemployment Benefits Fraudulently Obtained Determined Non-Dischargeable in Bankruptcy Case

Connecticut – According to the Law, Bankruptcy allows “honest but unfortunate debtors” an opportunity to reset their financial affairs and get a fresh start, but some pre-existing debts that were not obtained honestly, such as debts obtained by false pretenses or by false representation, are not eligible for discharge. This was the case in a recent bankruptcy proceeding where the court determined that an overpayment of unemployment benefits, plus interest, was nondischargeable because the claimant had fraudulently represented her employment status and, as a result, received unemployment benefits she otherwise would not have been entitled to receive.

View the case here: http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20BCO%2020170406700/IN%20RE%20KING

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Woman Who Quit After Raise Request Was Denied is Also Denied Unemployment Benefits

Pennsylvania – In a recent ruling, the Commonwealth Court denied unemployment benefits to a woman who quit her job when she didn’t receive a raise after her job title was changed. The claimant stated that she was hired as a customer service rep in September 2015, but that her job title changed to a data analyst just two days later. The claimant felt that this entitled her to a raise while the employer disputed this claiming that there was no significant change in her job duties that would warrant a raise. The Judge overseeing the case agreed with the employer and ruled in their favor citing that there wasn’t a compelling enough reason for the claimant to have quit her job.

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Unemployment Eligibility for Contingent Employees is Updated

At the close of 2016, the U.S Department of Labor issued new guidance that updated a nearly 30 year old protocol for establishing unemployment eligibility for “contingent” and “adjunct” employees. Many organizations, such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), pushed for this updated guidance as the old standards from 1986 mainly addressed primary and secondary education and not higher education. This new guidance issued in Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 05-17 highlighted various circumstances of university faculty who are considered to be “contingent” or “adjunct” employees. It explains that, in order to deny unemployment to contingent faculty based on a claim of employment in the following semester, the state unemployment compensation office must first determine that three prerequisites are all met: the offer of employment must be genuine and made by an individual with authority to offer employment; the employment offered must be in the same capacity; and the earnings in the following year or term may not be significantly less (generally at least 90%) than the preceding one.

Read more about this new guidance here: https://www.aaup.org/unemployment-compensation-contingent-faculty

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Wisconsin Woman Receives Unemployment After Discharge for Transaction Errors

In a unanimous decision reached last Thursday, the State Supreme Court has ruled that a terminated employee of a Wisconsin Walgreens store is eligible to receive unemployment benefits in spite of evidence of major transaction errors. Although there were eight errors having to do with undercharging and accepting unapproved forms of payment, there was no proof that her errors were intentional and thereby could not be qualified as “substantial fault”, a concept that became a part of the state’s unemployment law in 2014.

Read more about this ruling here: http://www.wpr.org/state-supreme-court-sides-worker-unemployment-case

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Definition of “Simple Misconduct” Determined to be Unclear

New Jersey – The state’s terminology for categorizing the various types of employee misconduct was recently examined by a court. Currently, there are three levels of misconduct indicated in the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Act, each having their own terms of disqualification; gross misconduct, severe misconduct and simple misconduct. For an act to fall under one of these categories, it must be proven to be a deliberate act and not an act of simple negligence.

Through this proceeding, the definition of “simple misconduct” was determined to be unclear and ineffective. This is primarily due to the fact that the line between simple misconduct and simple negligence is not clearly defined in its description. As no determination could be made at the time, the department has been given 180 days to provide a clear definition of the term.

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The End of Ski Season Brings an Increase in Initial Claims

Vermont – According to the state’s Department of Compensation, initial claim filings were up by 495 last week. Many believe the end of the ski season has caused this recent spike in unemployment claims. Compared to last year though, initial filings remain lower and the state unemployment rate held at 3% as the labor force and total employment increased.

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What Furloughed Federal Employees Can Expect

With the most recent threat of a government shutdown averted by an emergency funding bill passed late Sunday, many are still left wondering what could have happened if the government had actually shut down, especially the government employees who would have been furloughed from work.

Based on guidance from the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), federal agencies are required to pay employees deemed essential or exempt from the shutdown, although that money won’t be paid until after the government reopens. In addition, while furloughed federal employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation in some states, they may be required to repay the benefits they received if Congress approves their back pay.

Read more about the government’s policies for furloughed federal employees here: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-shutdown-furloughs.pdf

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