Changes to PA Unemployment Compensation Law, Part 1

After the holiday season, there is typically a national spike in unemployment claims. This year is no exception. For employers and employees in Pennsylvania, 2012 also brings changes to the state's Unemployment Compensation (UC) laws. In a series of posts, we will discuss aspects of the amended UC laws that will impact both claimants and employers.

Is Your Job Search Meeting the UC Requirements?

Until 2012, Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation (UC) laws required claimants to "register" for work, then continue to "report" to an unemployment office to be eligible for benefits. As of January 1, 2012, only claimants who are "making an active search for suitable employment" will be eligible for UC benefits within the meaning of Section 401 of Act 6 of 2011, "Qualifications Required to Secure Compensation."

What does it mean to make an "active search," and what qualifies as "suitable employment"? At a minimum, the new requirements are:

  1. Registering for employment search services through Pennsylvania CareerLink within 30 days of the initial application for benefits.
  2. Posting a resume on CareerLink's database.
  3. Applying for positions that offer employment and wages similar to those that the claimant had prior to unemployment and which are within a 45-minute commuting distance.

The statute provides that an active search for suitable employment has been made "if the claimant's efforts include actions comparable to those traditional actions in their trade or occupation by which jobs have been found by others in the community and labor market in which the claimant is seeking employment."

As an example, if a claimant was previously a teacher, an active search may include registering on a state education database, sending resumes regularly to local school districts and keeping clearances up-to-date. Regardless of field or specialty, all claimants will need to register and document aspects of their job searches.

Under the amended law, UC claimants must be able to demonstrate that they have met the new requirements to be eligible for compensation. These requirements do not apply for weeks in which the claimant is in approved training, required to participate in re-employment services, or when the employer has advised the claimant of the date on which he/she will be recalled to work. In addition, there are options for meeting eligibility other those discussed above.

You may wish to consult the Department of Labor and Industry's website for more information on the new active search requirements. Because all cases are different, we recommend discussing specific circumstances with an attorney knowledgeable in the field of Unemployment Compensation.

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA. She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and has practiced in the area of employment law for over 25 years.

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