Surprise! North Carolina has a Revised Unemployment Law

Granted, I do not have cable and I rarely get my news from any source other than BBC but for some reason it seems that people don't really care about the revised unemployment bill Governor McCrory signed into law on September 10th.  My guess is many of you are wondering what I'm talking about- which furthers my suspicions that this newly revised law was not well publicized to the masses.  Well-played, North Carolina. 

Luckily, the infamous unemployment law as we know it remained largely the same with some mild substantive changes regarding the employee's burden to receive benefits and the duration of benefits.  It appears the common theme behind many of these revisions is "program integrity" and making sure the system works and making sure those trying to defraud the system are brought down quickly.  Let's start there.

Program Integrity and Inter-agency Love 

People defraud unemployment just like they defraud medicare, income taxes, and social security. These things happen and they cost taxpayers a boatload of money each year. Not cool, right?  The revised unemployment law sets up a lot of inter-agency cooperation.  This means North Carolina just got a bit more "big brotherish" as a lot of agencies will now be able to easily share information between them.  Think: Department of Revenue, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Commerce, etc.  Although it appears from my reading of the statute that much of this data-sharing will be used to cross-match data and hunt down defrauders, it still gives a lot more people a lot more access to a lot more data.  

Actively Seeking Work means Sending your Resume to Five Potential Employers.

When the unemployment law was revised in '12, unemployment beneficiaries had to show they were "actively seeking work" in order to keep getting benefits.  Back then, "actively seeking work" was in part defined as seeking work on "at least two different days during the week" and making contact with at least two potential employers during the week.  Now the Division of Employment Security doesn't care about how many days in a week you job hunt, so long as you make contact with at least five potential employers in a week.  In other words, job hunting needs to be a full time job while your unemployed.  

We Frown upon Employers Who Do Not Pay their Unemployment Tax.

If you are an employer and you have employees but you are not paying this tax, please start here and here. When employers do not pay their unemployment taxes, the employees are usually the ones that get hurt.  The new revisions permit the Division of Employment Security to attach or garish the employer's credit card receipts or other third-party payments as repayment of the unpaid taxes.  This is all assuming the Division prevails in a civil lawsuit against the non-paying employer. 

The Division can Require Beneficiaries to Show a Photo ID Weekly.

As part of the weekly certification for benefits, the Division is now permitted to ask for photo identification every single time.  Sounds kind of like the NC voter ID law and looks like it could easily be used as a mechanism for discrimination.  It also appears a certain forms of identification are absent from the list of approved documents like visas and green cards. My guess is this revised section was intended to protect beneficiaries from other people trying to cash in on their benefits.  It also makes you show up as opposed to your assistant, family member, or friend. 

Goodbye Minimum Duration of Benefits.

Gov. McCrory's new bill strikes the minimum duration of benefits and opts only for the maximum duration of benefits- now reworded as "Number of Weeks" as opposed to "Maximum Number of Weeks." The number of weeks one can receive benefits is still based on the percentage of unemployment in the state.  Based on my most recent WRAL alert, this makes the number of weeks equal to 12.   

Introducing, the Board of Review.

The last part of the revised law has a new section regarding what is called a "Board of Review."  There has obviously been some acknowledgment that having a well-founded appeals process for the types of benefits is key and it is this Board's responsibility to set these standards and review them.  The "Catch-22" is that the Board is appointed by the Governor.  Nevertheless, having someone monitoring oversight is never a bad thing, right?

Unemployment is a sensitive topic for all people and its a very confusing process.  If you have questions or concerns about applying for or receiving benefits, or if you are an employer and confused about your obligations, let me know and we'll chat.