On March 16, 2020, the Georgia Department of Labor (“GA DOL”) passed emergency rules placing an affirmative burden on employers, in certain situations, to file partial claims for unemployment on behalf of their employees. The emergency rules also waive the work search requirements associated with claims for unemployment benefits filed after March 14, 2020, and create exceptions to the in-person registration requirements for applicants. These rules will tentatively remain in effect for 120 days, but could be superseded if the GA DOL issues new rules or if Governor Brian Kemp ends the Public Health State of Emergency in Georgia.
Noteworthy Updates for Employers
The emergency rules specify that employers must file claims for partial unemployment on behalf of their full-time employees “with respect to any week during which an employee works less than full-time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.” This requirement only applies if the temporary layoff or reduction in hours results in the full-time employee(s) earning an amount that does not exceed their maximum weekly unemployment benefit amount plus $50.00. Full-time employees who are not eligible for the benefits contemplated by the emergency rules include: (i) those who will be paid for the temporary layoff and/or reduction in hours (e.g. those paid on a salary-basis, regardless of time worked, or those taking paid sick leave, paid vacation or paid family leave); (ii) those employed by a temporary agency who are currently working at the employer’s place of business; (iii) those who are on a scheduled vacation; (iv) those who have been employed in another state within the last 18 months; and (v) those who were employed with the federal government or on active military service in the last 18 months. Notably, the emergency rules do not contain any guidance as to the threshold reduction in hours that may trigger these obligations or what constitutes a “total or partial company shutdown.”
According to the GA DOL, partial claims for unemployment filed pursuant to the requirements of the emergency rule will result in employees receiving faster benefit payments. However, the emergency rules do not impose any additional obligations on employers in the event of a temporary or permanent termination of employment. Any employer found to be in violation of these emergency rules shall be required to reimburse the GA DOL for the full amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid to the employee(s).
Action Items for Employers Filing a Claim for Partial Unemployment
- Employers must be registered users on the GA DOL’s Employer Portal, with administrator or user privileges permitting the submission of employer-filed claims for partial unemployment.
- Instructions on establishing an administrator account to register on the Employer Portal can be found here.
- Employers must complete and submit a GA DOL Form 408, via the Employer Portal, for each pay period in which an employee’s work schedule is reduced due to COVID-19.
- There must be at least seven (7) days between pay periods and the GA DOL cannot accept premature filings (i.e., prior to the end of the pay period subject to the reduced work hours).
- Guidance from the GA DOL on filing claims for partial unemployment can be found here.
For assistance determining whether modifications to your employees’ work hours may subject your company to the requirements of the emergency rules, and/or navigating other employee management issues related to COVID-19, please reach out to the MMM Employment Team.