Georgia: Employers Must File Partial Unemployment Insurance Claims for Their Employees
On March 16, 2020, Georgia’s Department of Labor (the “Georgia DOL”) became the first state to adopt a rule that requires employers to file partial unemployment claims for any week during which an employee (full-time or part-time) has his or her hours reduced or eliminated due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Georgia law, partial unemployment claims apply to employees who will experience a reduction in hours or a temporary layoff. Employers must file partial unemployment claims online by visiting the Employer Portal, and must file partial claims for each weekly pay period during the temporary reduction/layoff.
This rule was effective March 16, 2020, and will remain in effect until the earlier of 120 days or until the Department adopts a subsequent rule.
The Georgia DOL adopted this rule to expedite the process for claimants to receive unemployment insurance benefits. When the employer files the claim, as opposed to the employee, the employer affirms that (1) the employee is either temporarily working reduced hours or not working at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) it expects the claimant to return to work when the COVID-19 pandemic ends; and (3) benefits can be paid immediately.
Employers should not submit claims for employees who:
- Are employed by a temporary agency and are currently working at the company’s place of business;
- were employed in another state in the last 18 months;
- were employed with the federal government or on active military service in the last 18 months;
- are 1099 employees/independent contractors;
- are voluntarily out of work, e.g., quit, requested a leave of absence, self-quarantined, etc.; or
- have been permanently separated from the company and are not expected to return to work when the COVID-19 emergency ends.
The Georgia DOL distinguishes between employees who voluntarily choose not to go to work in order to self-quarantine (those individuals must file their own claim) and those that are directed to not return to work because of their exposure to COVID-19 (who must be included in the employer filed partial claim).
The employer should tell the affected employees that it will file their unemployment insurance claim and that they do not need to do so. Other important information to provide to affected employees is located on the Georgia DOL’s website.
Why this matters:
- Financial Implications: There can be significant financial implications for employers in violation of this rule.
- Employers found to be in violation must reimburse the full amount of benefits paid to the employee to the Commissioner of the unemployment fund.
- Employers who file partial claims online will not be charged for benefits paid on employer filed (partial) claims, but will be charged for claims filed by employees, in addition to the requirement that they reimburse the DOL for the total amount of benefits paid on the individual-initiated claim (see bullet above).
- Employer filed (partial) claims will not affect the employer’s tax rate, but claims filed by employees may affect the employer’s tax rate.
- Temporary vs Permanent Reductions/Layoffs: As noted above, the rule only applies to employees who have had their hours temporarily reduced or have been temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees who have been permanently laid off must file their own claims. Therefore, before laying off employees, it is important for employers to decide whether this will be a temporary or permanent action.