The New Rule Regarding Employer’s Responses to Unemployment Insurance Claim Notices in Georgia
By: Jeffery L. Thompson
Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC
Many Georgia employers may have recently received a surprise in their mail – a letter from the Georgia Department of Labor stating that effective October 22, 2013, Georgia employers will have to comply with a new rule concerning state unemployment insurance claim notices.
So What’s the New Rule?
New Georgia Department of Labor Rule 300-2-3-.05 states that employers and their agents that do not “timely and adequately” respond to “three (3) or more individual claims” within the “current calendar year,” will have their account charged and “may not be relieved of charges, regardless of whether the associated determination to pay benefits is later reversed on appeal or if an overpayment is established.” The rule does not fault employers who did not “timely and adequately” respond if they had “substantial good cause.” The rule defines “substantial good cause” as “extenuating circumstances which prevented the timely or adequate filing by the employer, or the employer’s agent, as appropriate, and that such extenuating circumstances were beyond the employer’s or the employer’s agent’s control.”
Essentially, the “substantial good cause” standard seems to be pretty high and will be difficult for employers to meet. The bottom line is employers must respond in a timely fashion to all state unemployment insurance notices or face substantial penalties.
Why Did Georgia Make This Change?
Georgia employers may be scratching their heads wondering why the Georgia Department of Labor made this change. Well the answer is that the federal government told them to. On October 21, 2011, President Obama signed the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act (TAAEA). While the main focus of the TAAEA was to provide aid to workers who lost their jobs as a result of increased imports, a portion of the TAAEA, called Unemployment Compensation Program Integrity, creates new standards that states must implement with respect to responses to unemployment insurance claim notices. The purpose of this act was to reduce overpayments, however, in practice, it is unlikely to have to the desired effect.
The federal act requires that states issue laws that provide “an employer’s account shall not be relieved of charges relating to a payment from the State unemployment fund if the State agency determines that”: (1) the employer was “at fault for failing to respond timely or adequately” to a claim or request for information on a claim for compensation and (2) the employer established a “pattern” of failing to respond to such requests. These criteria, while somewhat vague, were required to be implemented by all states as of October 21, 2013 (two years after the TAAEA’s effective date).
Each state has taken its own approach on implementing laws that conform with this statute. If you should have any questions about how this law will impact your business, please contact Jeffery L. Thompson or Sarah Phaff at (478)-750-8600.
What’s on the Horizon?
Georgia employers should be reminded that the state implemented this rule to comply with federal law since the state legislature did not act within the required time frame. Accordingly, there will likely be new legislation in 2014. We will keep you posted!