Unemployment Penalties

We had to fire an MA in February for negligent work. We have four months of documentation and talking with her, working with her, and warnings. It reached a point that no provider felt it safe for her to remain in the office. We are in IL, so this was well before any COVID concerns. She was initially denied unemployment. She appealed in late March, during the stay-at-home, and then missed the hearing, but was granted unemployment yesterday as she claimed she was sick with respiratory symptoms(not true, which we argued). We are appealing again. I am certain the only reason she received unemployment was because of the current pandemic. We have an excellent unemployment percentage, and if we get charged for her unemployment as we typically would, it will be a big hit to our unemployment taxes. Does anyone know how IL is handling the penalizing of business owners when they have to pay unemployment? I am hoping we are not going to take a hit for this.

That’s a good question… but in my personal opinion I don’t think it’s avoidable regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, or fortunately, due to the pandemic they are granting unemployment to many people that would have never qualified in the past. In this MA’s case, regardless of the reasoning behind ending her employment, she may not be able to currently find a job due to the pandemic and that is likely why they granted her unemployment. If she fabricated respiratory symptoms that is unfortunate but I would guess even if she hadn’t she would have been granted unemployment. Sorry for the situation. We all have that unknown of what will happen with our unemployment taxes.

If she missed the hearing, how was the judgment reversed?
Why was she able to introduce new data/reasons during the appeal process?

I have no idea. I can only imagine it was d/t sympathy during COVID. The judge seemed to focus on a cold she said she had, but we had months of documentation and lack of remediation. It was truly a safety issue, and well before any COVID cases in Madison County IL. We have appealed again, and with the same paperwork. We have an abundance of warnings and documentation that she signed at the time of the incidents. It is ridiculous really.

I suspect you are right. Of course I wish no hardship on their family, I am just hopeful that there will be exceptions made for our practices so that we are not being held responsible by increasing our unemployment taxes. I am not sure where to find that information. Thank you

As far as that question – some states are charging COVID-related unemployment to “general benefits” rather than the account of a particular employer(s). In other words, COVID-related unemployment benefits should not raise your unemployment rate.

States which are not increasing employers’ rates for COVID-related unemployment claims include North Carolina, Washington, Utah, Mississippi, Michigan, and Iowa, to name a few.

I believe you are in Illinois, which unfortunately may still be charging some COVID-related charges to employer accounts as per Q10 and per IDES.

Is it true that an employee isn’t supposed to file unemployment if we received the PPP?

I have 2 employee’s that have me scratching my head. One of them went down to 4 days a week and we cut our hours from 8-5 to 9-4, Monday-Friday. I applied for the PPP and did get it. Once we got it I told her we need her 5 days a week. She said “her mom can’t babysit anymore she could only do 3-4 days a week”. What she did was file unemployment without saying anything to me about it. I found out the day I told her to she could work 5 days by mail with a noticed for DOL. (I was furious) I still haven’t told her I found out. I had to complete the form by saying she was employed, working 4 days a week and that she can now work 5 days a week. Not to be ugly, but I hope she doesn’t get it. That’s double dipping, in my opinion. So, with her filing for unemployment will that hurt me in anyway as far as the PPP and any forgiveness?

The other employee volunteered to stay home with her 5 children. It was easier for her because of the school work. She could have come in for 4 days a week but she chose not to. She filed unemployment without telling also. I offered her 5 days a week as soon as we received the PPP loan but she said she’d rather work on as “as needed basis”. Is that going to hurt me any way? Or, should I just go ahead and hire someone else? Are new employee’s covered under the PPP or are they paid outside of the PPP? I hope that made sense.

Not necessarily. If you laid them off, they are perfectly within their rights to file unemployment. Most states also now recognize “partial unemployment,” i.e. a reduction in work hours below full time even without total separation. If you paid your employees less than full time while waiting for PPP, even though you fully intended to make them whole after you got PPP, then they are within their rights.

One of them went down to 4 days a week and we cut our hours from 8-5 to 9-4, Monday-Friday.

This is a legitimate reason for her to claim partial unemployment for the reduced period. You reduced her to four 6 hour days from five 8 hour days; that’s a 40% reduction. Did she claim she was fully unemployed or partially unemployed?

I had to complete the form by saying she was employed, working 4 days a week and that she can now work 5 days a week.

You did the right thing. She’s still eligible to collect the 40% unemployment from the period of reduced hours, but going forward from the time you offered her full hours and she declined, she cannot collect any. You should document clearly that you offered her full time work and she declined to come back, citing lack of child care (i.e. a not-your-problem problem, unlike “it’s not a safe working environment” or “my boss never clearly offered me my FTE back” which would fall back on you.)

The other employee volunteered to stay home with her 5 children. It was easier for her because of the school work…She filed unemployment without telling also.

She can’t decline to work “because it’s easier” and then file unemployment. One of the prongs to collect unemployment benefits is “ready and willing to work.”

As far as how this potentially affects your PPP forgiveness, you’d need to work through the loan forgiveness worksheet. You’ll note that this document states that people who formally decline to return to work are not supposed to not count against you:

Indicate the FTE of (1) any positions for which the Borrower made a good-faith, written offer to rehire an employee during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period which was rejected by the employee; and (2) any employees who during the Covered Period or the Alternative Payroll Covered Period (a) were fired for cause, (b) voluntarily resigned, or © voluntarily requested and received a reduction of their hours. In all of these cases, include these FTEs on this line only if the position was not filled by a new employee. Any FTE reductions in these cases do not reduce the Borrower’s loan forgiveness.

It’s worth contesting these if you’re in a state that will count unemployment against your UI rating in the future (see above posts in this thread.)

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for explaining all of this. It makes perfect sense now. No one has helped me like you have!!

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So, now I have another question. It seems I always have the strange situations.

I hired a FNP in March. She started right when the pandemic started. So, due to low visits, we had her only come in a day here and there to shadow. (She’s not credentialed yet)
Shortly after I hire her she found out she was pregnant. She didn’t tell me until about 2 weeks ago. Once she told me she was pregnant she started telling my other providers, scribes and MA’s that she was comfortable seeing any sick patients. She refused to see any. I spoke to her about this and reminded her that we don’t let anyone who may have the COVID-19 symptoms or answered any of our COVID-19 questions come in our office. Those visits are done by Telehealth. But, we can’t control who may come in and “forgot” to mention they work at a chicken factory or “grandma tested positive and she lives next door”… and so forth. Also, all of my providers see all types of visits. We don’t pick and choose who to see. (this made my other NP’s really mad that she was picking the visits she wanted to go into).

I spoke with the owners this morning and told them it would be best for her to not work until after the baby is born. (whenever she’s ready) They agreed.

Now, here’s my question. Is she eligible for unemployment? She started on March 24th, only work a total of 115.50 hours since then. That averages 12-13 hours a week. Do I make her employment “postponed” or “delayed” or what? If she is eligible should I be the one to file it?

Is she an at-will employee, or does she have an employment contract? If the latter, what does it say about altering her schedule unilaterally or bilaterally? What does it say about leaves of absence (e.g. maternity leaves) ? What does it say about who/what kinds of appointments she’s expected to see?

If she’s already employed, I don’t understand how you would “postpone” her employment. (That might apply if you had hired her but she hadn’t started work yet.)

Employees are responsible for filing for unemployment. You are responsible for telling your side of the story as part of the appeal process, should you choose to appeal.

This is an interesting tid bit. We had an employee go out 5 weeks early for bed rest mid February (not due until April 1) had baby at due time last week March - since it was COVID we allowed another 6 weeks - was to come back 2nd week May- she said she couldn’t return until June 1st due to babysitter problems. 3rd week of April we received notification of approved unemployment file where she said we laid her off. We showed the email correspondence and information about her still being hired and on maternity and we were waiting on her to return. Then Thursday before she was to return on Monday - she sent email that night saying she wasn’t coming back and was moving to Florida.
Then she showed up last week for her 4 month well check.
SMH! What’s wrong with the world.
PS they now say she didn’t qualify for her unemployment and we did “win” our appeal.

I wish we were so lucky. I had an employee QUIT before COVID d/t getting another job. Then when COVID hit she didn’t get to start her new job. Won unemployment, and now my unemployment insurance is up $4000 a year. That should be illegal. The state is totally robbing me. So frustrating.