State Legislative Affairs
Damian Taylor, Esq. - State Legislative Affairs Director
Amendments to Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Law signed by Governor Scott
During HR Florida’s inaugural Day on the Hill in Tallahassee last February, our members met with legislators to discuss legislation important to the HR profession and the businesses we represent. Among other things, we advocated for the passage of House Bill 7005 and its related Senate bill, to amend several aspects of Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Law.
On June 27, 2011, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7005 into law. Ch. 2011-235, Laws of Fla. Included among the reforms are provisions that:
- reduce most employers’ unemployment tax rates beginning in 2012;
- reduce the number of maximum available benefit weeks from 26 to a range of 12 to 23 weeks depending on the state’s annual unemployment rate;
- make Florida’s law consistent with federal law regarding federally funded extended benefits;
- require an eligible claimant to complete an initial online skills review and to, each week, actively seek work with five potential employers or to meet with a One-Stop Career Center for reemployment services;
- increase the use of technology to reduce administrative expenses and increase efficiency;
- disqualify a claimant from benefits for a period of time based on the amount of severance pay received;
- lessen the “willful disregard” standard to a “conscious disregard” standard for determining employee misconduct;
- add several forms of employee misconduct that will support disqualification from benefits, including chronic absenteeism or tardiness in deliberate violation of policy, one or more unapproved absences after a written warning, and violation of a known, business related, lawful, and consistently enforced employer rule;
- specify that disqualification occurs for any week in which a claimant is unavailable for work due to imprisonment, and that certain criminal conduct may be disqualifying even where the crime is not punishable by imprisonment;
- remove the statutory rule of construction in favor of a claimant who is unemployed through no fault of his/her own; and
- promote the use of hearsay evidence in hearings.
With these and the other provisions of HB 7005, we can hope that the integrity of Florida’s unemployment compensation system will be strengthened, that Florida’s previously depleted unemployment compensation trust fund can be restored, that claimants truly deserving of benefits will receive them and be restored to gainful employment as quickly as possible, and that abuses of the unemployment compensation program and the corresponding burdens imposed on employers can be reduced.