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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 11, 2021 03:37 PM
From: Representative Dawn W. Keefer
To: All House members
Subject: Legislation Amending Unemployment Compensation Law to Define "Willful Misconduct" and "Voluntary Quit"
I am preparing to reintroduce HB 621 (F. Keller) from the prior session.  The legislation will amend the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law to: 1) state that in situations where an employee voluntarily leaves their employment, they can only collect unemployment benefits if they left their job because of a cause of necessitous and compelling nature related to their employment; and 2) provide a statutory definition for the term "willful misconduct" as it relates eligibility for compensation, for individuals whose employment is terminated by the employer.

It is important to note that, in general, an individual is not eligible to collect unemployment benefits, if they voluntarily leave their job. However, Section 402(b) of the law does permit such individuals to collect, if they demonstrate that they voluntarily quit, due to a "cause of necessitous and compelling nature." This standard has been left to the courts to interpret and "case law" has been established on the myriad of situations that fall under this area of the law. This legislation simply states that a "cause of necessitous and compelling nature" should be attributable to employment. This change ensures that a person collecting benefits under this situation, voluntarily left their position for a valid reason that was associated with their employer. Please note this legislation contains reasonable exceptions to the rule proposed in this bill for domestic violence situations, and military transfers. It is important to note that this proposed standard is not unusual, because most other states use the same type of standard in their unemployment compensation laws.

In addition, a person whose employment is terminated is generally eligible to collect benefits, unless an employer can show that the claimant committed "willful misconduct". The term is not defined in statute and has been left to the courts to decide. This legislation provides a specific definition, most of which is based on existing case law.

This is a bill that is very important to the business community, and it is strongly supported by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry and NFIB. Please join me as a cosponsor.

Introduced as HB551