Friday, April 6, 2012

Relief From Charges Under Pennsylvania Unemployment Law - What Does That Mean?

PENNSYLVANIA UNEMPLOYMENT LAW: WHAT IS RELIEF FROM CHARGES

A request for Relief From Charges is a document filed by employers under Pennsylvania Unemployment law.  Let me address one common scenario wherein an employer files for Relief From Charges.

Assume that you worked for a Company X for 3 years at a salary of $40,000 until your employment ended on January 1, 2012 (either because you were fired or you quit).  You would have been entitled to toughly $500 per week in unemployment as per your Notice of Financial Determination, but in March you lose your Unemployment Hearing before the Referee (either on the grounds that you engaged in willful misconduct or that you quit your job without necessitous and compelling reason).

On April 1, 2012, you find a new job with Company Y paying you w-2 wages in the amount of $500 per week.  Unfortunately, Company Y lets go as part of a lay off on June 30, 2012 (i.e. 12 weeks after you started with Company Y). You then apply for unemployment in connection with your involuntary lay off from Company Y. 

In such a scenario, you are under Pennsylvania's unemployment law  entitled to unemployment because you are laid off, provided that you have enough earnings from Company Y.

Below, I discuss how you figure out if you have enough earnings from Company Y and, if not, what that means regarding your application from unemployment.

WHAT IS MY BASE YEAR UNDER PENNSYLVANIA UNEMPLOYMENT LAW?

To know how this all plays out, you need first understand what your "Base Year" is under the law. 

Your Base Year is the first 4 of the last 5 quarters that immediately preceded the date of your separation from your most recent employment.  In this scenario, your most recent job ended June 30, 2012 so, in calculating your Base Year earnings, we skip your most recent quarter of earnings (i.e. we do not take into account any of your earnings from Company Y, all of which were made during the second quarter of 2012).

"I was told there would be no math?!..."
HOW DO I KNOW IF I EARNED ENOUGH MONEY FROM MY EMPLOYER TO BE ENTITLED TO UNEMPLOYMENT UNDER PENNSYLVANIA LAW?

Ordinarily, the calculations for how much you need to earn in order to be entitled to unemployment benefits is relatively straight forward.  In summation, if Company Y was the only employer that had employed you during your base year, you would have had $0 earnings for the Base Year (remember, one counts only the first 4 of the most recent 5 quarters in determining eligibility), and would be ineligible for benefits.

Yet, in this case, sue to your former employment with Company X, your Base Year earnings were $40,000 (i.e. your 2011 earnings , which constituted the 4 quarters taken into account when determining your Base Year earnings).

So, because you were formerly employed with Company X, you have enough earnings to qualify for unemployment when you are laid off from Company Y.  In fact, you would be eligible for the same $500 that you would have received as a result of the end of your employment from Company X, had you been so eligible.

In this scenario, only Company X may be charged for your unemployment benefits, since it is the only one that employed you during your Base Year.  Company Y is completely off the hook.  Yet, you were initially ineligible for benefits from Company X, while you would have been eligible for benefits resulting from your lay off from Company Y.  What gives?

EMPLOYERS THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE CHARGED FOR YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIM CAN AVOID BEING CHARGED BY FILING FOR RELIEF FROM CHARGES

In such a scenario, Company X is referred to as the non-separating employer (i.e. an employer that had employed you during your Base Year that is not the employer that most recently employed you) and Company Y is referred to as the separating employer (i.e. the one who most recently separated you from employment, and who may or may not have employed you during your Base Year.).

As noted above, only Company X has a stake in the outcome of your claim for benefits relating to the claim you made arising out of your lay off from Company Y.

Since the reasons from your separation from Company X made you ineligible for unemployment, Company X wants to fight your claim.  Yet, insofar as it has already won a determination of your ineligibility where your January 1 separation from employment is concerned, what else can it do?

In this scenario, Company X files for Relief From Charges.

CAN I GET UNEMPLOYMENT IN PENNSYLVANIA AFTER I AM LAID OFF IF I WAS FIRED FROM MY PREVIOUS JOB FOR WILLFUL MISCONDUCT OR IF I QUIT MY PREVIOUS JOB WITHOUT NECESSITOUS AND COMPELLING REASON?

The answer to this question is: Yes, provided that you earned at least 6x your weekly benefit rate from the employer that laid you off.

In the example given above, you would be eligible for unemployment because you earned in excess of $3,000 from Company Y (i.e. earned more than 6x your weekly benefit rate of $500).

Yet, since you were fired from Company X, it will not be charged for the unemployment benefits that you receive as a result of your lay off from Company Y, as long as it files a timely request for Relief From Charges.  If such a timely request is filed, it will be granted (remember, your ineligibility for benefits where Company X is concerned has already been determined via the Referee Hearing). 

You will still get benefits, though, paid by the common fund maintained by Unemployment.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY EX-EMPLOYER FILES FOR RELIEF FROM CHARGES?

Under the hypothetical situation set forth above, you need do nothing in response to Company X's request for Relief From Charges.  For  one thing, you cannot win because you already lost on the eligibility issue where Company X is concerned during the March 2012 Unemployment Hearing.  Moreover, you need not do anything - if indeed you were laid off from Company Y, you will get benefits because, following the cessation of your employment with Company X, you earned more than 6x your weekly benefit rate.

Philadelphia Are Employment Attorney Representing Employees

John A. Gallagher, Esquire
Representing Employees in Pennsylvania Since 1991
John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania. 

John typically represents employees who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.

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1 comment:

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