Wisconsin Workers Will Find it Harder to Get and Keep Unemployment Benefits in 2013

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee recently approved a modification to the state budget bill, 2013 Assembly Bill 40, for 2013-2015 that substantially curtails unemployment benefits to Wisconsin workers. The modification broadens the definition of misconduct for the purpose of disqualifying workers for unemployment benefits. Since 1941, misconduct was defined as conduct that shows a willful and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or is not within the standards of behavior employers have a right to expect of all employees. The new definition redefines misconduct as “substantial fault.” Substantial fault would include acts or omissions of an employee over which the employee exercised reasonable control and which violate reasonable requirements of the employee’s employer. Other changes to the bill would eliminate many of the existing circumstances where an employee that must quit a position can recover benefits and lengthens the disqualification periods that workers must satisfy before becoming eligible for benefits again. This is a significant shift towards disqualifying more workers from benefits for longer periods.

The legislature was also busy with a separate bill recently passed, Assembly Bill 219/Senate Bill 200, which imposes further requirements on unemployment recipients and additional bases to disqualify unemployed workers.

These changes come at a difficult time for unemployed workers in Wisconsin. The state fell to 44th in the nation in job creation in March according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and 49th in economic outlook according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.