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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: January 13, 2016 02:38 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Follow the Active Duty Spouse Act

Please join me in co-sponsoring legislation seeking to protect the Unemployment Compensation rights of the spouses of active duty members of the United States Armed Forces.

Currently, if an active duty member of the Armed Forces is transferred to a new duty station, and if, as a result, his or her spouse is forced to resign their employment, it is possible under Pennsylvania law that the resignation will be considered “voluntary.” Generally, workers who voluntarily leave employment without a “necessitous and compelling” reason run the risk that they will not qualify for Unemployment Compensation benefits.

This legislation would add a provision to the Unemployment Compensation Law clarifying that a spouse’s move to follow his or her active duty spouse will not be considered “voluntarily leaving work” if the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry determines that continued employment would be impractical or unreasonably difficult.

Pennsylvania is one of only five states (the others being Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio) that does not have a specific military spouse clause. According to the latest 2014 data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, there are 1,657 military spouses in Pennsylvania. Two states, Florida and Washington, actually track the unemployment claims of military spouses. If Pennsylvania spouses claim unemployment compensation at the same rate as those in Florida and Washington, the estimated annual impact on Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system would be less than $71,000, based on U.S. Department of Labor data.

This bill, therefore, would align Pennsylvania with the vast majority of other states and would protect the families of our service men and women at an extraordinarily meager expense.

Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB1133