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."

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Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP is excited to be featured in the Women in Business section of the November/December 2011 issue of Susquehanna Style. The feature highlights just some of the great qualities and community work of Christina Hausner, Holly Filius and Julie Miller. If you are interested in viewing the feature, you can

As we have witnessed the Penn State Scandal spark movement toward change in state legislation, it is no surprise that its impact has now reached Washington, D.C. Yesterday, Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey and California Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid (Speak Up) Act of 2011. The purpose of the

On Friday I posted an article regarding Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Reporting Statute which requires certain people to report suspected child abuse to the proper authorities.  I highlighted some of the changes that have occurred in the law and the continuing confusion with the current law.  I suggested that our legislature may be prompted to take a look

Unless you have avoided picking up a newspaper, turning on the television or conversing with friends, family or co-workers recently, you probably have heard about the scandal surrounding Penn State University and the sexual abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky. The scandal, however, extends beyond the football program and has resulted in criminal charges being filed against former athletic director, Tim Curley, and finance and business administrator, Gary Schultz. The charges against these two individuals are perjury and failure to report child abuse. The allegations surrounding the Penn State football program and the charges against its administration, aside from becoming major national news, have brought significant attention to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law and have raised a number of questions about who is required to report child abuse and when.

The current Child Protective Services Law in Pennsylvania requires that someone who, in the course of their employment, comes into contact with children must make a report to the appropriate Children & Youth Service or police when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been a victim of abuse. The Law further goes on to specifically list a number of categories of persons who are required to report suspected abuse including, but not limited to:

  • Any licensed physician, osteopath
  • Medical Examiner, Coroner
  • Funeral Director
  • Dentist
  • Optometrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Podiatrist
  • Intern
  • Registered Nurse
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons
  • Christian Science practitioner
  • Member of the Clergy
  • School administrator, teacher, school nurse
  • Social services worker
  • Day-care center worker or any other child-care or foster-care worker
  • Mental health professional
  • Peace officer or law enforcement official

This list is not meant to be exclusive of others, but provides specific examples of those required to report. The Law also provides that any person may, even if not included in the above list, report suspected child abuse, although the Law does not impose a specific duty to do so.

The language of the Child Protective Services Law, while seemingly clear in its intent to require those in contact with children to report abuse, does leave open the question of what constitutes contact with children during one’s course of employment. Does it require constant contact? Occasional contact? It has been found that incidental contact with children during employment is not enough to trigger a reporting duty under the Law. In one case decided by a federal court interpreting this law, the Court found that a photo lab worker in a retail store was not under the purview of the Child Protective Services Law. Because the photo lab worker did not have regular contact with children during the course of her employment, she did not have a duty to report suspected abuse she perceived from photographs she processed in the lab.

Much has been made of the legal duty to report child abuse in the context of the allegations against the Penn State administrators. The question has been raised by at least one of the administrator’s attorneys as to whether a crime was actually committed by the administrator’s failure to report the information provided to him by Joe Paterno and the former graduate assistant who allegedly witnessed the sexual abuse of the child. It has also been pointed out by legal journals and commentaries that in 2002, when these alleged failure-to-report crimes occurred, the law was different than it is today. The 2002 law required that the abused child come directly in contact with a person in his or her professional capacity in order for that person to be considered a mandatory reporter. The law was then amended in 2007 to broaden the reporting requirements and include those who received the information second-hand. 

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I would like to thank Timothy Kershner, CPA for providing his accounting and tax expertise for this blog article.

Timothy Kershner, CPA is a partner at the accounting and consulting firm of Walz, Deihm, Geisenberger, Bucklen & Tennis, P.C. He has more than 20 years of experience in public accounting and operates as the partner in charge of the firm’s accounting and consulting division.

One important decision most business owners must confront is whether to treat certain workers as employees or independent contractors. An employer who makes the mistake of incorrectly classifying an employee as an independent contractor can face tax consequences and incur heavy penalties. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") has launched the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (“VCSP”), which will enable many employers to reclassify workers as employees with minimal penalties. For those who are unsure of whether they are correctly classifying their workers and are concerned about possible audits, the VCSP can work as a "reset" button that offers a fresh start.

Employees vs. Independent Contractors

Before addressing the VCSP itself, it is important to understand a few basic concepts regarding tax reporting and withholding requirements for employers. If a worker is treated as an employee, the tax law requires the employer to withhold certain portions of the worker’s pay and pay those amounts directly to the federal government. The amounts withheld are generally reported to the IRS on payroll tax returns and to the employee on IRS Form W-2. In addition, the employer must remit their portion of payroll taxes.   

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Last year, we wrote about how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a COBRA subsidy that reduced the amount certain laid-off workers pay for health benefits by 65%. Without the subsidy, those workers would have been responsible for the entire cost of continuing to receive health benefits from their former employers. 

Because enrollment for

This week from May 16 – 20, is National Small Business Week. National Small Business week was proclaimed in 1963 to recognize the positive contributions small businesses make to the United States economy. Here are a few facts about small businesses from the National Small Business Week website:

  • There are an estimated 27.2 million small business owners in the United States.
  • More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business.
  • Small businesses are responsible for creating 60-80 percent of new jobs in the country.
  • Small businesses drive innovation, create 21st century jobs and increase U.S. competitiveness.

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I recently read an article on, Feds settle case of woman fired over Facebook comments, which discussed a settlement in Connecticut which will have a significant long-lasting impact on employers’ policies regarding their employees’ conduct on the internet. The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") reached a private settlement with American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. for the termination of an emergency medical technician who posted what the article called an expletive-filled posting which referred to the employee’s supervisor as the company’s code for a psychiatric patient. The ambulance company had an employment policy which prohibited employees from disparaging the company over the internet or depicting the company in anyway.

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