On April 23, the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), Office of Unemployment Insurance Administration issued an Emergency Rule requiring that Louisiana employers notify workers of the availability of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at the time of separation. If this sounds familiar, that’s because the LWC promulgated a nearly identical Emergency Rule on April 8 in an effort to secure the LWC’s eligibility to receive an infusion of federal funds to assist with processing and paying UI benefits under some circumstances. In particular, the new employer-issued UI notification is one of three requirements that states must have in place to qualify for the first phase of the $1 billion in emergency state grants provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, specifically Division D, the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 (“EUISAA”).
Although Louisiana employers are already obligated to post a notice with information about filing a claim for unemployment compensation benefits in places employees can access, that obligation does not extend to providing similar notice to employees at the time of separation from employment. The Emergency Rule imparts this additional notification requirement on employers forced to lay off workers or reduce their hours on account of the COVID-19 economic downturn. In other words, the UI benefit enacted under the EUISAA is for job losses or reduced work schedules; it is not paid leave.
Requirements of Additional Notification
Of the three conditions states must meet to receive their allotted share of the EUISAA’s $1 billion distribution, the UI notification is the only requirement that puts any onus on employers. Specifically, Louisiana employers must notify each individual employee and independent contractor (W-2 and 1099) at the time of separation of employment or reduction of work hours that they:
- May file a UI claim with the LWC within the first week their employment stops or hours are reduced;
- Can file a UI claim with the LWC by phone at 866-783-5567;
- Can call the LWC by phone at 866-783-5567 with questions about the status of their UI claim or other assistance with UI claims; and,
- Must provide the LWC with the following information in order for the claim to be processed:
- Full legal name;
- Social Security Number; and,
- Authorization to work (if not a U.S. Citizen or resident).
The above information must be provided to employees in writing, by way of a flyer, letter, email, or even a text message.
The LWC’s April 23rd Emergency Rule rescinded and replaced the prior Rule, which included language as to the content and timing of the required UI notification that is no longer contained in the updated version. In particular, the April 23rd Emergency Rule removed the limitation that only employees who met the state’s requirements for UI eligibility were permitted to file a claim. This likely is nod to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), which expanded UI eligibility to independent contractors, among others, who are normally excluded from receiving state benefits. The April 23rd Emergency Rule also eliminated a 24-hour grace period for employers to convey UI benefits information to workers after separation from employment or a reduction in hours.
The LWC has prepared a sample form containing the newly required notification information outlined in the Emergency Rule. Employers can download the LWC’s form at http://www.laworks.net/Downloads/UI/WTS/UI_AvailabilityNoticeToSeparatingEmployees.pdf.