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Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance: Active Search for Work New Requirements

October 9, 2013

Last year the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed, and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law, a package of major amendments to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance Law. Those amendments generally cut weekly Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and further restricted eligibility for benefits for unemployed workers. It also created the largest single taxpayer funded bond debt in Pennsylvania history at $4,500,000,000. This bond debt is to pay off a huge bill accumulated by the failure of Pennsylvania employers to pay a reasonable share of the cost of Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance benefits even though Pennsylvania workers are among a small handful or workers in only three states who fund their own UI benefits by directly paying into the Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund on every dollar they earn to fund a part of the cost of those benefits.
Among the provisions of that amended Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance Law is a new requirement that unemployed workers engage in what the law refers to as an “active search for work” in order to maintain Unemployment Insurance benefit eligibility.
On April 18, 2013, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission, at the request of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, approved active work search rules for unemployment compensation (UC) (Regulation No. 12-96) that became effective on and after August 16, 2013. The basic work search requirements, in order for otherwise qualified unemployed workers to maintain UI benefit eligibility are:
1) Unemployment Insurance claimants register with state CareerLink within 30 days after initially filing for UI benefits; and
2) Claimants must engage in three documentable work search activities each week.
Two basic new UI eligibility requirements:
1) Registration: UI Claimants must register for employment search services with the Pennsylvania CareerLink system within 30 days after filing for benefits; if UI claimants fail to properly register, they will be ineligible for benefits in any week ending after the first 30 days. If the claimant’s labor market area is located outside of PA, they must register for employment search services with the agency that serves the claimant’s labor market area.
2) Work search activities: In order to be eligible for UI benefits after that 30 days and for each week thereafter, the claimant must engage in work search activities and maintain records.
What are the new required Work Search activities?
1) Claimants must apply for at least two positions (jobs) each week (in other words three applications in one week and one in the next will not meet the requirement).
> Applications may be limited by the UI Claimant to similar positions to the job most recently lost (defined as "positions that offer employment and wages similar to those the claimant had prior to his [or her] unemployment and which are within a forty-five (45) mile commuting distance").
> If a claimant is unable to apply for at least two similar positions during a week, s/he must either apply for positions that would provide "suitable work" (defined in § 4(t) of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance Law as "all work which the employee is capable of performing") or engage in additional work search activities.
> Claimants may apply for a position by mail, phone, or electronic submission, by submitting a job application or resume to the employer, or by following hiring procedures established by a potential employer.
> Claimants are prohibited from applying more than once for any one position to satisfy the weekly application requirement unless they reasonably believe that the employer's hiring circumstances have changed.
2) Claimants also must engage in at least one of the following work search activities each week after the expiration of the first 30 days of initial UI benefit eligibility: attend a job fair; search positions posted online; post a resume in the CareerLink system or with another resume posting service; contact friends, former co-workers, etc. about job openings; use an employment agency or placement service; take a civil service test or other pre-employment test; or participate in a program or activity offered through the CareerLink system. Submitting an additional job application can substitute for completion of any of these work search activities.
Note: An interview counts as either an application or a work search activity, but may not be counted twice.
Exceptions to required work application/work search activities requirements:
> If a claimant is working part time and earning in excess of his or her partial benefit credit, as that term is defined in the Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance Law, s/he is required to apply for only one position during any such week and is not required to perform another work search activity.
> Claimants are not required to perform any additional job search activities if they secure their employment through referral by a union operated hiring hall and they fulfill all of the requirements of the hiring hall or if they actively participate in a program or activity approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry as an approved acceptable work search alternative.
> Claimants may be exempted from the work search requirements if they were laid off for lack of work but advised by their employer of a specific date on which they will return to work. However, the employer must have designated specific recall date and notified the claimant of that date in writing, and the recall date must be bona fide. If the recall date is rescinded by the employer, if the recall does not take place as intended, or if the recall date has passed without a return to work for the UI Claimant, the exemption will not further apply.
> UI Claimants may apply for a waiver if compliance with the new requirements would be oppressive or inconsistent with the purposes of the law but, the Claimant must comply with the active search for work requirement while awaiting a response to such a waiver request.
> UI Claimants must maintain a written, current and up to date record of their required work search activities (both job applications and other work search activities), layoff notices with anticipated return to work dates and retain the record for two years, as well as produce the record for review by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry as they may require. We urge claimants to keep a detailed record of the date, time, place, and names of participants of each work search activity at the time it happens to avoid having to reconstruct records with a hazy memory and under pressure from state authorities later.
> UI Claimants are advised to use the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry work search record form to be sure that they have assembled and retained all of the required information. However, using that official form is not required.
As these new and additional requirements for all Pennsylvania UI Claimants are implemented, we are confident that there will be issues that arise regarding both the substance of the regulatory requirements and their application to individual Claimants. WWD Attorneys are available to assist you in assuring the protection of UI benefits and eligibility.
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