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A00793
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
129
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY COX, GLEIM, JOZWIAK, MILLARD, MIZGORSKI, MOUL,
RYAN, STRUZZI, THOMAS, ZIMMERMAN AND WHEELAND,
FEBRUARY 11, 2021
AS REPORTED FROM COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND INDUSTRY, HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, AS AMENDED, APRIL 20, 2021
AN ACT
Amending the act of December 5, 1936 (2nd Sp.Sess., 1937
P.L.2897, No.1), entitled "An act establishing a system of
unemployment compensation to be administered by the
Department of Labor and Industry and its existing and newly
created agencies with personnel (with certain exceptions)
selected on a civil service basis; requiring employers to
keep records and make reports, and certain employers to pay
contributions based on payrolls to provide moneys for the
payment of compensation to certain unemployed persons;
providing procedure and administrative details for the
determination, payment and collection of such contributions
and the payment of such compensation; providing for
cooperation with the Federal Government and its agencies;
creating certain special funds in the custody of the State
Treasurer; and prescribing penalties," in determination of
compensation, appeals, reviews and procedure, further
providing for rules of procedure AND FOR PLACE OF HEARING.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Section 505 of the act of December 5, 1936 (2nd
Sp.Sess., 1937 P.L.2897, No.1), known as the Unemployment
Compensation Law, is amended to read:
SECTION 1. SECTIONS 505 AND 505.1 OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 5,
1936 (2ND SP.SESS., 1937 P.L.2897, NO.1), KNOWN AS THE
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UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION LAW, ARE AMENDED TO READ:
Section 505. Rules of Procedure.--(a) The manner in which
appeals shall be taken, the reports thereon required from the
department, the claimant and employers, and the conduct of
hearings and appeals, shall be in accordance with rules of
procedure prescribed by the board whether or not such rules
conform to common law or statutory rules of evidence and other
technical rules of procedure. [Rules established by the board
shall permit either party to a hearing to testify via telephone,
without regard to distance of hearing location from either
party.] The following shall apply:
(1) THE BOARD SHALL REVIEW AND REVISE ITS RULES TO MODERNIZE
THE METHODS BY WHICH HEARINGS ARE CONDUCTED. REVISED RULES
SHALL:
(I) PROVIDE FOR A TRANSITION FROM IN-PERSON AND TELEPHONE
HEARINGS TO HEARINGS CONDUCTED PRIMARILY VIA VIDEOCONFERENCE NO
LATER THAN THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE REGULATIONS PROMULGATED IN
ACCORDANCE WITH PARAGRAPH (2)(V).
(II) ALLOW PARTIES AND WITNESSES TO PARTICIPATE BY TELEPHONE
OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS WHEN VIDEOCONFERENCING IS NOT
AVAILABLE.
(III) PROVIDE FOR THE CONTENTS OF THE HEARING NOTICE,
INCLUDING INFORMATION ON HOW TO ACCESS THE HEARING AND HOW TO
REQUEST AN IN-PERSON HEARING FOR GOOD CAUSE.
(IV) PROVIDE FOR THE PROCEDURES FOR PARTIES TO SUBMIT
EVIDENCE AND FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF EVIDENCE DURING HEARING
PREPARATION, INCLUDING METHODS TO ELECTRONICALLY SUBMIT AND
DISTRIBUTE EVIDENCE.
(V) REQUIRE PARTIES AND WITNESSES TO ACCESS A HEARING
ACCORDING TO INSTRUCTIONS PROVIDED BY THE BOARD OR A REFEREE,
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WITHOUT THE NEED FOR THE BOARD OR REFEREE TO INITIATE CONTACT.
(VI) PROVIDE FOR IDENTITY CONFIRMATION FOR PARTIES AND
WITNESSES, INCLUDING THE SWORN AFFIRMATION OF IDENTITY, SUBJECT
TO 18 PA.C.S. § 4903 (RELATING TO FALSE SWEARING), FOR
INDIVIDUALS PARTICIPATING BY VIDEOCONFERENCE, TELEPHONE OR OTHER
ELECTRONIC MEANS.
(VII) ALLOW NOTICES OF HEARINGS TO BE PROVIDED
ELECTRONICALLY TO PARTIES AND COMMUNICATIONS RELATED TO THE
SCHEDULING OF AND ACCESS TO HEARINGS TO BE MADE BY TELEPHONE,
EMAIL OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS, IF THE PARTY HAS AGREED TO
RECEIVE NOTICES AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS BY THESE MEANS, AND
REQUIRE NOTICES OF DECISIONS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS THAT ARE
REQUIRED TO BE SENT BY MAIL TO ALSO BE SENT BY EMAIL OR OTHER
ELECTRONIC MEANS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
(VIII) ALLOW A PARTY OR WITNESS IN AN IN-PERSON HEARING TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE HEARING BY VIDEOCONFERENCE, TELEPHONE OR
OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS, UNLESS GOOD CAUSE UNDER PARAGRAPH (4)
NECESSITATES THAT THE PARTY OR WITNESS APPEAR IN-PERSON.
(2) THE BOARD SHALL IMPLEMENT REVISED RULES AS FOLLOWS:
(I) THE BOARD SHALL SOLICIT PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE CREATION
OF TEMPORARY RULES FOR HEARINGS. THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD SHALL
BE AT LEAST FIFTEEN DAYS AND NOT MORE THAN THIRTY DAYS. WITHIN
THIRTY DAYS OF THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS PARAGRAPH, THE BOARD
SHALL SUBMIT NOTICE OF THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD TO THE
LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE BUREAU FOR PUBLICATION IN THE PENNSYLVANIA
BULLETIN.
(II) WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS
PARAGRAPH, THE BOARD SHALL SUBMIT NOTICE OF TEMPORARY RULES,
CREATED IN ACCORDANCE WITH PARAGRAPH (1) TO THE LEGISLATIVE
REFERENCE BUREAU FOR PUBLICATION IN THE PENNSYLVANIA BULLETIN.
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(III) TEMPORARY RULES SHALL TAKE EFFECT NO LATER THAN THIRTY
DAYS AFTER THE PUBLICATION OF NOTICE UNDER SUBPARAGRAPH (II).
(IV) THE BOARD SHALL PROPOSE REGULATIONS TO REVISE RULES
UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) NO LATER THAN ONE YEAR AFTER THE EFFECTIVE
DATE OF THIS PARAGRAPH.
(V) THE BOARD SHALL PROMULGATE REGULATIONS TO REVISE RULES
UNDER PARAGRAPH (1) NO LATER THAN THREE YEARS AFTER THE
EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS PARAGRAPH.
(VI) TEMPORARY RULES SHALL REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL THE
EFFECTIVE DATE OF REGULATIONS PROMULGATED UNDER SUBPARAGRAPH
(V).
(1) (3) Hearings shall be conducted via telephone ,
VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS unless the referee
determines that good cause exists to hold an in-person hearing.
(2) (4) A party may request an in-person hearing in writing
to the department within ten days of the date of the hearing
notice FOR GOOD CAUSE . The hearing notice shall include notice
of the procedure to request an in-person hearing.
(3) (5) For the purposes of this subsection, good cause
shall include any of the following circumstances:
(i) A party to the hearing , OR a witness or other
participant has a physical, mental or intellectual disability,
which would impose an undue hardship on the individual if the
hearing is conducted via telephone , VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER
ELECTRONIC MEANS .
(ii) A party to the hearing , OR a witness or other
participant requires an interpreter, and the department cannot
reasonably provide interpretation services via telephone ,
VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS .
(iii) A party to the hearing offers compelling evidence that
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conducting the hearing via telephone , VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER
ELECTRONIC MEANS would create a significant advantage for an
opposing party.
(IV) A PARTY TO THE HEARING AFFIRMS, SUBJECT TO 18 PA.C.S. §
4904 (RELATING TO UNSWORN FALSIFICATION TO AUTHORITIES), THAT
THE PARTY IS UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HEARING VIA TELEPHONE,
VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS.
(6) THE DEPARTMENT SHALL, WHEREVER POSSIBLE, MAKE ATTEMPTS
TO ASSIST THE BOARD IN FACILITATING ACCESS TO HEARINGS HELD VIA
TELEPHONE, VIDEOCONFERENCE OR OTHER ELECTRONIC MEANS FOR PARTIES
AND WITNESSES WHO REQUEST ASSISTANCE IN GAINING ACCESS TO THE
TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY TO PARTICIPATE IN A HEARING.
(7) THE FOLLOWING SHALL APPLY:
(I) ANY PROVISION OF 34 PA. CODE CH. 101 (RELATING TO
GENERAL REQUIREMENTS) THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THIS SUBSECTION,
OR WITH TEMPORARY RULES OR REGULATIONS PROMULGATED UNDER
PARAGRAPH (2), IS ABROGATED.
(II) TEMPORARY RULES FOR HEARINGS ISSUED UNDER PARAGRAPH (2)
SHALL NOT BE SUBJECT TO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(A) SECTION 612 OF THE ACT OF APRIL 9, 1929 (P.L.177,
NO.175), KNOWN AS "THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF 1929."
(B) SECTIONS 201, 202, 203, 204 AND 205 OF THE ACT OF JULY
31, 1968 (P.L.769, NO.240), REFERRED TO AS THE "COMMONWEALTH
DOCUMENTS LAW."
(C) SECTIONS 204(B) AND 301(10) OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 15,
1980 (P.L.950, NO.164), KNOWN AS THE "COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEYS
ACT."
(D) THE ACT OF JUNE 25, 1982 (P.L.633, NO.181), KNOWN AS THE
"REGULATORY REVIEW ACT."
(b) When the same or substantially similar evidence is
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relevant and material to the matter in issue in applications and
claims filed by more than one individual or in multiple
applications and claims filed by a single individual the same
time and place for considering each such application and claim
may be fixed, hearings thereon jointly conducted, a single
record of the proceedings made and evidence introduced with
respect to any application or claim considered as introduced
with respect to all of such applications or claims: Provided,
That in the judgment of the board or referee having jurisdiction
of the proceeding such consideration will not be prejudicial to
any party.
SECTION 505.1. PLACE OF HEARING.--[HEARINGS] IN-PERSON
HEARINGS ON APPEALS SHALL BE HELD WITHIN THE COUNTY IN WHICH THE
EMPLOYE REGULARLY REPORTS FOR WORK. SUCH HEARINGS MAY BE HELD AT
THE COUNTY SEAT OR AT SUCH OTHER SUITABLE PLACE OR PLACES WITHIN
THE COUNTY AS THE BOARD SHALL DESIGNATE, AND WHEN ALL OF THE
PARTIES TO ANY APPEAL AND THE BOARD AGREE, SUCH HEARINGS MAY BE
HELD AT ANY SUITABLE PLACE.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
Section 1. Section 505 of the act of December 5, 1936 (2nd
Sp.Sess., 1937 P.L.2897, No. 1), known as the Unemployment
Compensation Law, is amended to read:
Section 505. Rules of Procedure.--(a) The manner in which
appeals shall be taken, the reports thereon required from the
department, the claimant and employers, and the conduct of
hearings and appeals, shall be in accordance with rules of
procedure prescribed by the board whether or not such rules
conform to common law or statutory rules of evidence and other
technical rules of procedure. [Rules established by the board
shall permit either party to a hearing to testify via telephone,
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without regard to distance of hearing location from either
party.] The following apply:
(1) The board shall review and revise its rules to permit a
party to a hearing or a witness to testify via telephone,
videoconference or other electronic means, without regard to
distance of hearing location from the parties, at the request of
one or more parties when one of the following applies:
(i) The parties consent to the receipt of testimony via
telephone, videoconference or other electronic means.
(ii) The party or witness is reasonably unable to testify in
person.
(iii) Telephone, videoconference or other electronic means
of participation are more accessible to a party or witness.
(2) In determining whether a party or witness may testify
via telephone, videoconference or other electronic means under
paragraph (1), the referee shall consider factors that would
make in-person participation inaccessible or less accessible
including issues related to:
(i) Transportation.
(ii) Lack of suitable childcare.
(iii) Existing employment or business responsibilities.
(iv) The health of the party or witness or the health of a
family member under the care of the party or witness.
(3) The board shall review and revise its rules to modernize
the methods by which testimony permitted under paragraph (1) may
be taken. Revised rules shall:
(i) Provide a transition from testimony via telephone to
testimony via videoconference no later than the effective date
of the regulations promulgated in accordance with paragraph (4)
(ii).
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(ii) Allow parties and witnesses to participate via
telephone or other electronic means when videoconferencing is
not available.
(iii) Provide for contents of the hearing notice, including
information on how to request to testify via telephone,
videoconference or other electronic means.
(iv) Provide instructions to parties and witnesses permitted
to testify via telephone, videoconference or other electronic
means in accordance with paragraph (1) on how to participate via
telephone, videoconference or other electronic means, which
shall include:
(A) Procedures to access and participate in the hearing via
telephone, videoconference or other electronic means without the
need for the board or referee to initiate contact.
(B) Procedures to submit and distribute evidence, including
methods to electronically submit and distribute evidence.
(v) Provide for identity confirmation for parties and
witnesses, including sworn affirmation of identity, subject to
18 Pa.C.S. § 4903 (relating to false swearing), participating
via telephone, videoconference or other electronic means.
(vi) Unless otherwise required by Federal or State law, any
notice or communication to a party or witness shall be mailed to
the last known post office address or transmitted via telephone,
email or other electronic means, as designated by the recipient.
(4) The board shall implement rules as follows:
(i) The board shall propose regulations to revise rules
under this subsection no later than one year after the effective
date of this paragraph.
(ii) The board shall promulgate regulations to revise rules
no later than two years after the effective date of this
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paragraph.
(b) When the same or substantially similar evidence is
relevant and material to the matter in issue in applications and
claims filed by more than one individual or in multiple
applications and claims filed by a single individual the same
time and place for considering each such application and claim
may be fixed, hearings thereon jointly conducted, a single
record of the proceedings made and evidence introduced with
respect to any application or claim considered as introduced
with respect to all of such applications or claims: Provided,
That in the judgment of the board or referee having jurisdiction
of the proceeding such consideration will not be prejudicial to
any party.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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