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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 7, 2017 01:09 PM
From: Senator Mike Regan
To: All Senate members
Subject: Amending the UC Law to Define "Willful Misconduct" & Clarify "Voluntary Quit"
The PA Unemployment Compensation (UC) Law establishes benefit eligibility standards in situations where individuals voluntarily quit their job or are otherwise terminated by their employer.

Ambiguity in current statute has resulted in an abundance of disjointed case law, frustrating the efforts of UC Service Centers, Referees, and the UC Board of Review.

Legislation is needed to provide clarity in these areas. Doing so will streamline the eligibility determination and claims appeal processes; will align our UC policies with those of nearly 40 other states; and will have positive financial outcomes (i.e. reduced experience tax rates) for job creators.

In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to make these needed charges to the UC Law. Key provisions are summarized as follows:

Voluntary Quit
Under current law, claimants are generally ineligible for benefits if they voluntarily leave their job. The law does, however, permit individuals to collect if they demonstrate that they voluntarily quit due to a “cause of necessitous and compelling nature.” This ambiguous standard has been left to the courts to interpret.

My legislation will stipulate that a claimant who voluntarily leaves employment will only be found eligible for benefits if he can demonstrate that he left such employment due to a cause of necessitous and compelling nature attributable to his employment.

The legislation includes reasonable exceptions to this rule for instances of domestic violence and military transfers.

Willful Misconduct

The UC Law renders claimants ineligible for benefits if they are fired or suspended for "willful misconduct connected with [their] work.” The term "willful misconduct" is not presently defined in statute.

My legislation will add language to the UC Law enumerating specific actions committed by claimants which constitute "willful misconduct".

These actions, which include reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, property damage, theft, and making violent threats, are largely the codification of current case law.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Noah Karn at (717)-783-8464 or nkarn@pasen.gov.

Introduced as SB473