Thursday, September 2, 2021

Georgia employers may experience whiplash due to the latest updates to state rules and regulations on unemployment and partial unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) changed its separation notice form. This is another update in a long line of notable changes to government rules and regulations governing unemployment and partial unemployment in the post-pandemic world.

GDOL has released the latest version of its individual separation notice form DOL-800, which went into effect on July 21, 2021. Georgia employers are required to complete this separation notice for any employee who is separated for any reason (unless 25 or more workers are around at the same time for the same reason, then DOL-402 and DOL-402 (a) Streamlined Mass Separation Forms should be completed will). Employers are expected to promptly present a completed termination form to a resigning employee at the time of separation (or within 48 hours thereafter) in accordance with the requirements of Georgia Employment Security Law 300-2-7-.06.

The modified form contains information about a recipient’s potential unemployment benefit entitlement and how to apply. While this change may seem minor, it is intended to make it easier for employers to comply with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Continual Assistance Act of 2020, which requires employers to disclose the availability of unemployment insurance to any unaccompanied worker upon separation.

Failure to fill out the DOL-800 form may result in penalties. For practical reasons, however, GDOL has not yet imposed any such penalties. In fact, separated workers are more likely to receive unemployment benefits when they are otherwise not.

This latest development is just one example of how GDOL has significantly changed government requirements for unemployment and partial unemployment benefits in the post-COVID-19 world. In 2020, after the start of the COVID-19 crisis, employers were obliged to apply for unemployment benefits for their employees, even if the employee was only partially unemployed (e.g. vacation or short-time work). This requirement has been unprecedented and burdensome for some employers in Georgia. However, on December 31, 2020, that requirement expired, relieving Georgia employers of the affirmative requirement to file unemployment benefit claims on behalf of their employees.

Three more changes took place in June 2021. First, Georgia has suspended its participation in four state unemployment programs enacted by the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefit, and Mixed Earning Unemployment Allowance. While for the most part these programs have had no direct impact on employers, it is hoped that Georgia’s early withdrawal will have a positive impact on unprecedented labor shortages in many sectors.

Second, Georgia reintroduced the requirement that contributory employers (those who pay unemployment insurance benefits through quarterly tax payments) pay unemployment benefits for claims submitted for individuals regardless of the reason for unemployment.

Third, the GDOL issued the Employer Submitted Partial Claim Rule, Rule 300-2-4.09. After that, employers are no longer obliged to submit a partial unemployment application for people who have been unemployed for more than six consecutive weeks. GDOL therefore encourages employers to convert partial claims into individual claims so that these employees can receive the benefits they need.

© 2021National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 245