Florida’s unemployment compensation law was substantially changed this summer.  This is good news for Florida employers.  So what are the changes employers should cheer?

(1)   Misconduct has been redefined. 

It is harder for terminated employees to get unemployment compensation.  Under the new law, misconduct is now defined as any action that demonstrates “conscious disregard of an employer’s interests and is found to be a deliberate disregard or violation of reasonable standards of behavior,” and may include activities that did not occur at the workplace or during working hours.  For example, benefits may be denied if an employer can show chronic absenteeism or tardiness, or a violation of an employer’s rule.  That’s unless the employee “can demonstrate that he or she did not know and could not reasonably know of the rule’s requirements” or “the rule is not fairly or consistently enforced.”

(2)   Unemployment insurance has been reduced.

The amount employers are charged will be reduced on January 1, 2012.  The Agency for Workforce Innovation (Florida’s agency that handles unemployment compensation) estimates that employers will save approximately $33 per employee.

(3)   Severance pay can now be off-set.

If an employer’s severance pay per week is equal to or greater than the weekly benefit amount, the eligible employee is not entitled to benefits for that week.  However, severance pay will not impact the total amount of benefits that can be paid on the claim.

(4)   Unemployment benefits have been reduced.

Eligible employees will receive fewer benefits.  Currently Florida pays up to 26 weeks.  Come January 1, 2012, Florida will only pay between 12-23 weeks based on the state’s unemployment rate.  The higher the rate, the more weeks will be paid.