According to a recent announcement by the Office of UC Service Centers, employers in Pennsylvania can expect that telephone calls will now be part of the state’s fact-finding process in connection with initial eligibility determinations for unemployment compensation benefits.
In the past, when a former employee filed a claim for UC benefits, the employer received a written form questionnaire issued by the local Service Center seeking the information needed to make an initial eligibility determination (such as the nature of and reasons for the claimant’s separation from employment). According to the announcement, Service Center claims examiners will now call employers to request this information over the phone. It appears, however, that an employer still may elect to provide most of the information relevant to the initial eligibility determination in writing. An employer who chooses not to participate in telephone fact-finding will be expected to inform the examiner of the nature of the separation and provide an email or fax number to which written fact-finding requests can be sent. In addition, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that its response is complete and provided in a timely manner.
Separately, it is important to keep in mind that whether the response is provided by phone or in writing, by law an employer’s UC reserve account will be charged for claimant overpayments resulting from a failure to respond or an inadequate or untimely response. An employer’s response to a request for information in connection with a UC claim will be considered untimely if not provided within the response time allotted (14 days) and inadequate if “the response misrepresents or omits facts that, if represented accurately or disclosed” would have been the basis for denying benefits.
Other than the announcement itself, there does not appear to be any additional information available at this time concerning the intention of state UC authorities to move toward telephone and away from paper based fact-finding at the initial stage of the process. Even so, at the very least employers should expect to receive telephone calls from local UC Service Centers requesting employment and separation information in connection with UC claims. While it should go without saying that truthfulness and cooperation are always recommended when providing information to the state in response to UC claims, the exercise of caution is also warranted when the circumstances involve former employees/separations that are complex, adversarial, or otherwise problematic. In these cases, it is best that the employer ask for the opportunity to provide a written response. Providing a prepared written response versus an immediate/on-the-spot verbal response is likely to reduce the margin for error and enhance the effectiveness of the response.
Contact any of the attorneys in the McNees Labor & Employment Practice Group if you have a question about this post or need assistance with evaluating, responding to, or contesting UC claims.