Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On July 17, 2020, the Georgia Department of Labor issued updated emergency Rules concerning unemployment benefits in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new Rules went into effect on July 19 and continue through November 16, 2020, or until the Department proposes and enacts subsequent rules or guidance.
Under earlier emergency regulations issued in March 2020, employers were required to file unemployment claims for all employees whose normal hours and pay were reduced due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.1
The most significant change set forth in the new Rules deals with employer-filed partial unemployment claims, which the Department of Labor mandated in March 2020. Under the new Rules, employers are no longer required to file partial claims for part-time employees whose hours and pay are substantially reduced due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Employers may elect to continue to file partial claims for affected part-time employees, but they are no longer required to do so. Employers still must, however, file partial claims for full-time employees whose hours and pay are reduced below the level of “Full-Time Continuous Employment,” which is generally defined as greater than 30 or more hours per week.
Additionally, under the new Rules, employers are no longer required to file partial claims for employees where the employer has offered to bring the employee back to work and restore the employee’s hours and pay to their pre-COVID levels, but the employee refuses to return to work.
Previously, employees not otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits were able to claim benefits if they had a total or partial reduction in hours and fell within certain identified categories of individuals, including those who: (a) quarantined or self-quarantined on the advice of a medical professional; (b) are age 60 or older; (c) have a recognized medical condition making them particularly susceptible to COVID-19; (d) are caregivers and reside with someone age 60 or older or in a high-risk group; and (e) are custodial parents or legal guardians of a minor whose school is closed due to COVID-19 and are unable to secure childcare. This provision expired and was not renewed.
The new Rules maintain the Department’s previous penalty provision, which states that an employer can be responsible for paying the entire amount of unemployment benefits if the employer fails to file partial unemployment for eligible employees. If an employer properly follows the Department’s emergency Rules, however, the employer’s unemployment account with the Department of Labor will not be charged for any unemployment benefits paid to company employees due to the COVID-19 emergency, including any benefits paid on partial claims.
The emergency rule regarding the chargeability of UI benefits is scheduled to expire on November 16, 2020, the date when the public health state of emergency ends, or when the U.S. Department of Labor rescinds its guidance giving states the flexibility with regard to the charging of claims, whichever comes first.
The new Rules continue to suspend the normal work search requirements for employees receiving unemployment benefits.
1 See Katy McConnell, Eric Hoffman, and McKinley Anderson, Updates to Georgia Unemployment – What Does It Mean For Employers?, Littler ASAP (Mar. 24, 2020); and Blaze Knott, Eric Hoffman, and McKinley Anderson, COVID-19 Update for Georgia Employers, Littler Insight (Apr. 29, 2020).