State unemployment benefits were intended to help people who lost their job due to no fault of their own. During the COVID pandemic, the federal government has provided enhanced unemployment benefits to people whose jobs were affected by coronavirus. These enhanced benefits added $300 to existing state benefits through September 6, 2021 and are also available to self-employed workers who typically are not eligible for state unemployment benefits.
Who is Eligible for State Unemployment Benefits?
Prior to the pandemic, only people who were terminated or laid-off from a job were eligible for state unemployment benefits.
- Terminated generally means that the employee’s job performance or attendance was unacceptable. Employees who were terminated for violating company policy might not be eligible if the policy violation was considered “gross misconduct.”
- Laid-off generally means that the position was eliminated due to no fault of the employee.
- Employees who voluntarily quit a job were not eligible for unemployment benefits unless they were able to prove “constructive discharge” which means that work conditions were intolerable and could not be resolved.
How are Unemployment Benefits Funded?
In Louisiana, employers pay all costs for unemployment benefits through a payroll tax or reimbursable program (government entities and non-profits only). In 2021, this tax rate ranges from 0.09% to 6.2% based on a taxable wage base of $7,700 per employee.
Are People Eligible for Unemployment Benefits if Terminated During First 90 Days on the Job?
Once an employee has received a payroll check, they become eligible for benefits if they are terminated or laid-off from a job. However, benefits are calculated based on the amount of wages paid to the employee in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the unemployment claim was filed. This means an employer’s unemployment account can be charged for benefits for a former employee who resigned from that job, but who was terminated or laid off by the next employer. Currently, weekly unemployment benefits in Louisiana range from $10 to $247.
Employer Responsibilities that Help Prevent Unemployment Fraud
- New Hire Reporting – In Louisiana, employers are required to report new employees to the Workforce Commission. This is usually done for employers by their payroll provider if they use one. This information notifies the Workforce Commission, that the person is no longer eligible for unemployment benefits if they were receiving them.
- Separation Notice (Form 77) – Employers are required to complete and submit this form within three days of the employee’s last day of work. This form provides information about final pay and the reason employment ended. The Workforce Commission uses this information to determine eligibility for benefits.
- Benefit Charge Protest – Employers receive this form whenever a claim has been filed for benefits. This form allows the employer to provide additional information to dispute the claim.
- During the pandemic, employers should also notify the Workforce Commission if any employee refuses to return to work. Refusal to return to work disqualifies the employee from receiving both state and federal unemployment benefits. If benefits have already been paid, the employee will be required to return to amount received.
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