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All HR Professionals:

SB593, which provides much needed reforms in the Arkansas Unemployment Compensation System, has been passed by the Senate and has been passed out of committee in the House. The next step is a full vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. Please contact your Member of the State House of Representatives NOW to express your support for SB 593. It is easy to do this. Just click here, type in your home address, with commas, as follows: 999 Main St., Little Rock, AR, 72201. (DO NOT FORGET THE COMMA BEFORE THE ZIP CODE!) That will bring up the name of your Representative and your Senator, with a link to their contact information. 

You need to call or email your Representative, NOW. A summary of the bill is below. What you say and how you say it is not as important as the fact that you communicate to your Representative that you want him/her to support the bill. We need every Representative to have multiple contacts from their constituents.  If you have any questions, please contact any of the following:

Donna Merriweather, SPHR

ARSHRM State Legislative Affairs Co-Director
Senior Vice President-HR Director
P. O. Box 417
901 Main Street
Arkadelphia, AR 71923
Phone: 870-246-5440
Fax: 870-230-1058
Ext.: 20901
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Darrin E. Coon, SPHR

ARSHRM State Legislative Affairs Co-Director
Business and HR Manager
John Brown University
2000 W. University Street
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
479-524-7123
eat1@eau1eav1eaw1 

Russell Gunter, SPHR

ARSHRM Government Affairs Director
Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C.
500 Clinton Ave., Suite 200
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 371-9999
Fax: (501) 371-0035
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SUMMARY OF CHANGES

1.  Statutorily set Minimum Benefit Amount at current level of $81, removing indexing formula.

2.  Statutorily set Maximum Benefit at current level of $451, removing indexing formula.

3.  Reduce the duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 25 weeks.

4.  Qualifying and Requalifying Wages

Currently a claimant in Arkansas must have worked in at least two base period quarters and have earned at least 27 times the claimant’s weekly benefit amount to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Similarly, to requalify for benefits, the claimant must have worked in at least two base period quarters and have earned at least 27 times the claimant’s weekly benefit amount and have earned at least 3 times the weekly benefit amount since filing the prior claim. The ADWS staff has suggested increasing the “27 times” formula to “35 times”, and increasing the “3 times” formula to “8 times.”

5.  Disqualification for misconduct.

Currently, disqualification period for misconduct is until claimant has completed 30 days of covered employment. This disqualification is scheduled to sunset on 7-1-11, reducing the disqualification to either 8 or 10 weeks (depending on severity of the misconduct) of unemployment.

Amendment would:

  1. Repeal sunset provision, leaving general misconduct qualification until claimant has completed 30 days of covered employment (same disqualification for a voluntary quit); and
  2. Establish a new disqualification for serious misconduct (dishonesty, working under influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, willful violation of safety rules) until claimant has worked in at least two base period quarters and earned no less than 35 times the amount of his average weekly benefit. (This is the same standard a new employee in the workforce must meet before being eligible for benefit payments.)

6.  Failing Drug Test

  1. Currently, a claimant that was discharged for failing a drug test is disqualified until completion of 30 days of covered employment, which will be reduced to 8 weeks of unemployment when the sunset provision becomes effective on 7-1-11.
  2. Currently a claimant who is receiving benefits who is denied employment for failing a drug test is disqualified for a period of 8 weeks of unemployment.
  3. The amendment will increase the disqualification in both circumstances until claimant has worked in at least two additional quarters and earned no less than 35 times the amount of his benefit. (This is the same standard a new employee in the workforce must meet before being eligible for benefit payments.)

7.  Absenteeism as disqualifying misconduct.

  1. Currently, ADWS looks are merits of absences in previous 12 months, even if employer has a no-fault attendance policy.
  2. This amendment would provide for disqualification for absenteeism if an employer followed a written attendance policy, with progressive discipline, regardless whether the policy is a fault or no-fault policy.

8.  Poor Performance

 Under current law, an employee discharged for poor performance is entitled to benefits unless the employer can prove the employee’s poor performance was intentional.

The amendment does the following:

  1. Violations of behavioral policies (as opposed to violations of performance standards) are misconduct for which an employee is disqualified.
  2. Progressive discipline for acts of commission, omission or negligence in the performance of the employee’s job duties is sufficient proof that the poor performance was intentional.
  3. A poor performing employee who refuses an alternative job offered by his or her employer and is subsequently discharged will be disqualified from receiving benefits until completion of 30 days of covered employment.

9.  Refusal to Apply for Work or Accept Suitable Job Offer

Current disqualification of 8 weeks of unemployment is increased to 30 days of covered employment.

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