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  • Rising Unemployment Premiums Anticipated for Washington Business Owners

    Oct 22, 2020

    IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses. The following blog article has been provided by Karen Galipeau Forner. Ms. Forner, is an attorney at Employer Solutions Law (https://employersolutionslaw.com/):

    Rising Unemployment Premiums Anticipated for Washington Business Owners

    What can employers do to minimize premiums?

    Our state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has been almost cut in half in the last six months, falling from $4.7 billion in March to $2.4 billion on August 22nd.  After paying unemployment benefits to so many laid-off workers and getting hit by nearly $650,000,000 in fraudulent claims, the forecast is grim.

    To cover our state’s unemployment benefits, premiums on employers could rise to an average of $936 per worker.  Previously the 2020 expected figure was $317, one-third of the new projection.  Employers who have had more layoffs could see an even higher per-employee increase.

    With the growth of unemployment and the expectation of it continuing to increase, premiums are projected to triple by 2022 and employers are searching for ways to limit their costs.

    What can employers do to control costs?  Employers should consider contesting claims that may be ineligible or fraudulent.  A few examples are an employee who quit, was fired for disqualifying misconduct, or refused a valid offer to return to work.  Employers should know that each awarded claim can affect their Unemployment Insurance premiums for four years and focusing on fighting improper claims would limit some of those costs.

    While usually an employee quitting makes the employee ineligible for benefits, the Employment Security Department outlines when employees are likely eligible for benefits when the employee quits for these “good cause” reasons as follows:

    • You quit to take another job.
    • You became sick or disabled, or a member of your family became sick, disabled, or died, and it was necessary for you to quit work.
    • You moved to be with your spouse or domestic partner whose job is outside your labor market area.
    • You needed to protect yourself or immediate family members from domestic violence or stalking.
    • Your employer reduced your usual pay or hours of work by 25 percent or more.
    • Your employer changed the location of your job so your commute is longer or harder.
    • You told your employer about a safety problem at work, and your employer did not fix the problem quickly.
    • You told your employer about an illegal activity at work, and your employer did not stop the activity quickly.
    • Your employer changed your usual work, and the work now goes against your religious or moral beliefs.
    • You entered approved apprenticeship training.
    • You started approved training under the Trade Act.
    • You worked full-time and part-time jobs at the same time, and you quit the part-time job – then were laid off later from the full-time job.

    The Employment Security Department outlines when employees are likely eligible for benefits for being laid off as follows:

    • Generally, we treat your job loss as a layoff if your employer is not replacing you, and you’ll qualify for unemployment benefits if you meet all of the eligibility criteria.
    • If your employer is replacing you, we generally will treat you as being fired.

    Examples of layoffs

    • Your employer has no work available
    • Your assignment ended
    • Your employer went out of business
    • Your position was eliminated
    • You’re required to participate in temporary classroom apprenticeship training
    • You’re a seasonal employee and the season ended
    • Your employer temporarily shut down for reasons such as weather, materials delay, natural disaster or temporary maintenance closure

    The Employment Security Department outlines when employees are likely eligible or NOT eligible for benefits for being fired as follows:

    Firing

    If you were fired through no fault of your own, such as not having the skills to do the job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. If we decide you were fired or suspended for misconduct or gross misconduct, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits.

    Misconduct examples

    • Deliberate or wanton disregard for your employer or a fellow employee, such as:
      • Insubordination
      • Repeated inexcusable tardiness following warnings
      • Dishonesty related to employment
      • Repeated and inexcusable absences
      • Violating the law or deliberate acts that provoke violence or illegal actions, or violating a collective bargaining agreement
      • Violating a company rule
    • Deliberately violating or disregarding standards of behavior that your employer has a right to expect.
    • Carelessness or negligence that causes, or will likely cause, serious bodily harm to your employer or fellow employees.
    • Carelessness or negligence that is so bad or happens so often that it shows an intentional or substantial disregard for your employer.

    Gross misconduct examples

    • A criminal act in connection with your work for which you have been convicted in a criminal court or have admitted committing.
    • Conduct connected with your work that demonstrates a flagrant and wanton disregard for your employer or a fellow employee.

    If employers are going to challenge workers’ compensation claims, they should be well prepared with witnesses and documents to make the case for denial of benefits with the very first written response to the Employment Security Department and any subsequent hearing.  Employers should consider legal advice and/or representation in challenging questionable claims.

    If you have questions relating to Unemployment Insurance Premiums, the content of this article, or issues related to workers’ compensation, workplace safety, or employment law, Karen Galipeau Forner would welcome the opportunity to talk with you.  Ms. Galipeau Forner can be reached at (425) 644-6142 or Karen@EmployerSolutionsLaw.com.

    IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.

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