The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has developed a program to allow employer filed partial claims to be converted to individual claims. This new process will allow employees who are permanently terminated the opportunity to continue receiving benefits without interruption.
Historically, when an employer laid off an employee permanently, the employee had to file an individual claim to collect unemployment. Individual claims, however, take more than 30 days to process. With the new Claims Conversion Program, the conversion will be made immediately without the employee having to refile the claim.
More Guidance for Employers Forthcoming
Many employers are facing challenges as they attempt to reopen their operations and return employees back to work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help employers in this effort, the GDOL will begin rolling out the Claims Conversion Program next week along with a series of webinars explaining options for getting employees back to work.
The Claims Conversion Program will outline the steps for employees working reduced hours, permanent layoffs, employee refusals to return to work, severance packages, and other employment challenges.
Until the Claims Conversion system is implemented, the GDOL encourages employers to continue to file weekly on behalf of their employees under the following guidelines:
When to Discontinue Filing Partial Claims
The GDOL encourages employers to work with their employees on plans to return to work. When business operations resume to normal operations as it was prior to the COVID-19 crisis, employers should discontinue submitting employer-filed partial claims for any employee who returns to their regular normal work schedule and is earning more than the weekly benefit amount (WBA) plus $300.
If you bring your employees back to work gradually and Employee A is working 30 hours a week at $15 an hour, you would report his/her earnings for the week as $450. If Employee A is receiving $250 per week from the GDOL in regular state unemployment benefits, you would add the $300 exemption amount and the $250 weekly benefit amount from the GDOL yielding $550. Since they earned $450 from the employer for the week and that is less than the $550, Employee A would still be eligible for $100 in state benefits and the additional $600 per week in federal benefits.
When to Continue Submitting Partial Claims
If a business gradually returns to full operation and many of their employees are brought back to work on reduced hours, the employees are eligible to continue to receive unemployment benefits. Employers are strongly encouraged to continue to submit weekly employer filed partial claims during this period.
If Employee B is working 30 hours a week at $30 an hour, you would report his/her earnings for the week at $900. If Employee B is receiving $325 per week from the GDOL, you would add the $300 exemption amount and the $325 weekly benefit amount yielding $625. Since they are earning more from the employer at $900 than the allowed amount of $625 to receive benefits, Employee B would not be eligible for state benefits or the additional $600 per week in federal benefits.
Finally, What if an Employer Wants to Permanently Lay Off Employees?
Until the GDOL implements its Claims Conversion Program, the GDOL strongly encourage employers to continue to submit weekly employer filed partial claims on their behalf.
As always, please let me know if I can help.
Kenneth Winkler, a shareholder at Berman Fink Van Horn, helps employers navigate the employment laws and regulations that govern the workplace.