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Misconduct has a New Standard!

On June 27, 2011, Governor Scott signed into law significant reforms to Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Law.  The agency that administers Florida’s unemployment compensation benefits, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, has published a web page to address questions related to the new reforms.  These reforms include the new definition of misconduct provided by the Agency for Workforce Innovation. The Agency now defines misconduct as:

[A]ny action that demonstrates conscious disregard of an employer’s interests and is found to be a deliberate disregard or violation of reasonable standards of behavior, and may include activities that did not occur at the workplace or during working hours.

Under the new definition, misconduct is extended to activities that occur during an employee’s personal time outside of the workplace. Additionally, it should be easier for employers to prove misconduct by reducing the standard from “willful and wanton disregard” of an employer’s interests, to “conscious disregard of an employer’s interest.”

The definition of misconduct also includes (1) chronic absenteeism or tardiness; (2) willful and deliberate violation of a state standard or regulation which would jeopardize the employer’s Florida license or certification; and (3) violation of an employer’s rules under certain circumstances.

While the revision to the definition of misconduct is a critical piece of which employers should be aware, the new law includes several other provisions primarily focused on what the claimant is required to accomplish in order to obtain benefits.  For instance, under the new law Claimants are now required to search for work by contacting at least five potential employers weekly and to provide records of such contact on-line during their bi-weekly certification of benefits. Also significant, severance pay is now considered disqualifying income if the amount of severance received per week is equal to or greater than the Claimant’s weekly benefit amount. Finally, effective January 1, 2012, the duration of benefits for new claims will be adjusted from the current maximum of 26 weeks to a range of 12 to 23 weeks, “based upon the average unemployment rate in Florida for the third calendar quarter of the previous year.”

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