Recently, many states, like Wisconsin, have tackled unemployment insurance reform with the intention of limiting jobless benefits payouts. However, Colorado recently bucked the trend of downsizing UI programs after recent legislation that suggests expanding the availability of jobless compensation was passed by a committee and is now up for House consideration.
Locked out workers would receive benefits
At issue is whether the ulterior object behind an employer-sanctioned lockout should restrict the availability of unemployment insurance. Colorado defines a lockout as either being offensive or defensive, the former consists of an employer strategy used as a bargaining chip when union contracts approach the end of term; the latter refers to a company preemptively counteracting an ongoing employee strike in the business' same industry.
Current Colorado law only allows for the extension of jobless benefits to employees who are subject to an offensive lockout, but the new legislation would open the door for employees to collect benefits under defensive lockouts as well.
The bill passed the Committee on Business, Labor, Economics & Workforce Development by a 6-4 vote and now moves into the House. The act would take effect August 7 if the bill is passed.
Opinions on the bill have been split on opposite ends of the spectrum, with The Denver Post reporting Colorado business groups have called the proposal "a bad public policy," while a director of a local food retail union said the bill is about "basic economic fairness."
Not the only measure to expand jobless benefits
In addition to considering HB 1304, the Colorado General Assembly has also passed SB 157, which now awaits the signature of the governor. The measure would extend the Colorado Work Share Program indefinitely. The program allows voluntary participant businesses to avoid layoffs by keeping employees at reduced hours and stipulates that such workers can receive up to 26 weeks of prorated unemployment insurance.
Unemployment insurance duties are an often vexing obligation for businesses and the great variance in and fluctuating nature of state laws can pose compliance problems for firms. Working with an HR service provider can effectively equip an organization with the tools it needs to process jobless claim functions.
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image credit: daveynin