Category Archives: Unemployment

Why Injured Workers (and their lawyers) Should Care About Unemployment Compensation Changes

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Eligibility for Unemployment Compensation in Wisconsin will change substantially in 2014.  For more than 70 years, an employee would only be found ineligible for Unemployment Compensation if he quit a job or was found guilty of “misconduct”.  Misconduct was defined under a 1941 case as “willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest.”  Mere inefficiency or unsatisfactory conduct or failure in good performance as a result of an inability to meet job expectations was not misconduct.

As a result of the aggressive efforts of Republican lawmakers (who ignored “agreed-upon” bill proposed by the non-partisan Unemployment Compensation Advisory Council) many workers will be deemed ineligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits. 

A new basis for disqualifying workers from receiving Unemployment Compensation benefits will be called “Substantial Fault” which may include a series of inadvertent errors made by the employee and violations of work requirements after the employer warns the employee about the infraction.

In addition, a series of situations in which a voluntary resignation would not disqualify a worker from benefits have been severely restricted. 

In the worker’s compensation arena, if an employer terminates an employee because of a work injury, or unreasonably refuses to rehire the employee after a compensable work injury, a penalty of up to one year of wages applies.  The purpose of the statute is to prevent discrimination against employees who have previously sustained injuries, and if there are positions available within the injured employee’s restrictions, to assure that the injured person goes back to work with his former employer.  This statutory protection is an exception to the general rule of “at will” employment in Wisconsin – where an employer can hire, fire, and make employment decisions for any reason or no reason at all except for a discriminatory reason defined by law (like race, gender, religion).  Under the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Law, a work injury is essentially an additional protected category.  The worker’s compensation Labor Industry and Review Commission has held that refusal to rehire benefits are not “back pay for Unemployment reimbursement purposes.” 

Under Unemployment Compensation law, no finding of fact or law made with respect to liability under the UC provisions is binding in an administrative proceeding under the Worker’s Comp law.  As such, the Unemployment decision generally is inadmissible in a worker’s compensation hearing.  However, some litigants attempt to use an Unemployment Insurance file for other purposes – beyond the findings of fact and conclusions of law – in a worker’s compensation hearing.  A finding in the Unemployment Compensation arena by an initial Unemployment Compensation deputy, for example, may prove admissible in the worker’s compensation arena on the issue of misconduct, thus providing the employer in a worker’s compensation claim a defense to a refusal to rehire claim.

Unemployment Law Project’s June Fundraiser

Pink Slips – a Universal Message

The Unemployment Law Project provides legal assistance and information to people in Washington State who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits is challenged. ULP’s annual summer fundraising event – “Pink Slip Protest” – was held on June 18th at Fare Start in Seattle. A pink slip refers to the practice of including a pink discharge notice in an employee’s pay envelope to notify the worker of his or her termination or layoff. Receiving a pink slip has become a metaphor for the termination of employment.

The evening started with the featured entertainment by a three person Mariachi band! We then heard “reports from the streets” from the Cherry Street Food Bank, the Transit Riders Union, YouthCare, and other organizations, who shared how they are supporting people who have fallen on hard times due to the economic downturn. The keynote address was given by Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council. Mr. Johnson’s speech caused the room to fill with applause in response to his calls to join together in the effort to improve the lives of everyone through establishment of a living-wage standard, among other things.

ULP has been a great resource for us and our clients who encounter difficulty obtaining unemployment compensation benefits.  It was great to see an outpouring of support for the services they provide, free- or low-cost to claimants.


Photo credit: chavelli / / CC BY-NC-ND

Overpayment Of Unemployment Due To Payment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits – NOW WHAT?!?

Injured workers transition from time loss compensation under their workers’ compensation claim to unemployment compensation when they are released to return to work but do not have a job available to them. In many cases, disputes arise as to whether the release to work and termination of workers’ compensation payments is appropriate. Often, the worker tries to find physically-appropriate work while collecting unemployment compensation during the dispute process but, once their attorney secures payment of back benefits under the workers’ compensation claim, an overpayment of unemployment benefits has occurred due to the overlap between the two systems. When this happens, workers should:

  1. Notify the unemployment insurance system that they are continuing to seek payment from the workers’ compensation system, but that they are involved in an appropriate job search during the dispute process.
  2. Immediately share with the workers’ compensation attorney any notices or orders received from the unemployment insurance system. These are usually NOT mailed to the attorney of record in a workers’ compensation claim and the notices often have limited time periods within to file a protest or request for reconsideration of the determination.
  3. Hold in savings from the workers’ compensation payment the claimed unemployment overpayment amount during the dispute process until a final overpayment notice has been issued, or have the workers’ compensation attorney hold this amount in their trust account. If this is not possible, be prepared to enter into a repayment agreement with the unemployment insurance system once a final overpayment figure has been determined.
  4. Seek assistance from the workers’ compensation attorney to document all attorney fees and costs paid as part of the effort to obtain back benefits under the workers’ compensation claim. Submit this documentation to the unemployment insurance system and request a reduction in the claimed overpayment to take these attorney fees and costs into account.
  5. Continue to send any notices or orders to the workers’ compensation attorney.
  6. Once the overpayment has been repaid, check to see if the receipt of workers’ compensation back benefits changes your tax obligations. In many states, workers’ compensation payments are not taxable income, but unemployment benefits are taxable. If there is a significant payment of back benefits under the workers’ compensation claim, it may be worthwhile to file an amended tax return with the IRS to document the lower taxable income figure.

Labor Day 2010: Puppets of the Plutocrats

Reprinted from the Saint Louis Post Dispatch

America should just go ahead and cancel Labor Day. Really.

Other than as an excuse for a picnic, what’s the point? Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, we honor plutocrats, and one Monday holiday in September is going to make up for it?

Organized labor no doubt would object. Big deal. One worker in eight belongs to a labor union. And last year, for the first time in history, more public-sector workers (500,000 more) belonged to a union than did private-sector workers.

Oh, the irony. For the second year in a row, Americans “celebrate” Labor Day with unemployment at 9.6 percent or higher. Corporate profits are 5.7 higher now than then they were in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession began. The number of jobs is 5.9 percent lower.

Corporate profits are 5.7 higher now than then they were in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession began. The number of jobs is 5.9 percent lower.

Labor — by which we mean not only organized labor but the entire working class — should just give it up. Roll over. Turn turtle. Admit it: The class war is over, and you lost. You not only lost, you collaborated.

Organized labor still may be fighting the good fight. But a lot of the working class is out there marching in the streets on behalf of the monied class, puppets of the plutocrats, angry as hell at all of the wrong people.

Oh, it wasn’t always like this. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 because President Grover Cleveland and Congress were frightened of labor’s power.

This was after Eugene V. Debs of the Railroad Workers Union had brought the country to its knees over Continue reading Labor Day 2010: Puppets of the Plutocrats