Employers should welcome the new amendments to Florida’s unemployment compensation laws. Among other things, those amendments eliminate the provision that the unemployment compensation law is to be liberally construed in favor of the claimant, broaden the definition of “misconduct” which will disqualify a claimant from receiving benefits, and require claimants to take new steps to demonstrate efforts to find work.  “Misconduct” now covers certain conduct regardless of whether it takes place in the workplace or during working hours. It now specifically includes conduct demonstrating a “conscious” (rather than “willful”) disregard of an employer’s interests, carelessness or negligence that manifests an intentional disregard of those interests, chronic absenteeism or tardiness,  or a violation of an employer’s known, valid and consistently enforced rule.

Prior to the amendments, claimants could receive unemployment compensation even though they were also receiving severance from their employer. Now, that severance will reduce the amount of unemployment compensation claimants receive. Further, the evidentiary burden for unemployment compensation hearings is relaxed under the new amendments – hearsay may now support a finding of fact if the party against whom it is offered has a reasonable opportunity to review it prior to the hearing and the hearing officer determines that it is trustworthy, probative and in the interest of justice to admit the evidence.

These are exciting changes for employers long frustrated by the unemployment compensation process. We are pleased to have the Hon. Alan O. Forst, Chairman of the Florida Unemployment Compensation Appeals Commission join me in a discussion of how these changes are playing out in the field at the 17th annual Akerman Labor & Employment  Law Seminar in Hollywood, Fla. on Thursday April 19. We hope you will join us. To learn more please visit http://www.akerman.com/events/LELS12/overview.asp