Today just after lunch the Kansas Chamber of Commerce sent out an email dripping with lies and urging people to contact legislators in regards to certain extremist anti-worker legislation. We wanted to take a moment to respond to their lies and provide an accurate interpretation of just what exactly is at foot here. You can view the full email at the end of this post.
Senate Bill 352 was introduced by Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee and passed the Senate Commerce Committee last month. SB 352 contains mostly technical changes. The major policy piece of SB 352 clarifies that a positive drug or alcohol test is conclusive evidence of misconduct and therefore makes the claimant ineligible for unemployment insurance. SB 352 also clarifies that repeated absences or lateness is conclusive evidence of misconduct and disqualifies individuals for benefits.
While Senate Bill 352 was indeed introduced by Brownlee it doesn’t contain merely technical changes, which is probably why in the Chamber email they call it a “major policy piece.” The changes that Senate Bill 352 makes to the Employment Security Law do nothing more than give businesses a way out of complying with the commonsense provisions of the law and do it on the backs of Kansas workers and taxpayers.
Currently, Kansas all work done for wages is presumed to be “employment” for the purposes of the Employment Security Law. This means every worker is presumed eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits upon discharge unless the worker was actually an independent contractor.
SB 352 completely removes the employer to employee relationship. When a worker who should be classified as an employee is instead classified as an independent contractor they would be deprived of his or her rights to Unemployment Insurance benefits unless they can prove they were misclassified. This places the entire burden on the employee.
SB 352 also removes the Department of Labor’s discretion to grant UI benefits in a situation where an employee was discharge because of repeated absences or lateness.
SB 352 sets a low bar for employers to meet in order to prevent employees from collecting unemployment benefits. The bill goes even further by preventing any consideration of mitigating circumstances. Regardless of circumstances, SB 352 allows an employer to use lateness or absences as a barrier to the worker accessing otherwise-deserved unemployment benefits.
SB352 also grants the Secretary of Labor the right to intervene on behalf of an employer and appeal a decision of an Unemployment Insurance Judge if the decision is deemed too worker-friendly. Which will be paid for by Kansas taxpayers and not the employer who would benefit from the appeal, regardless of if the employer has any interest in an appeal or not. This effectively transfers the cost of this appeal process from employers to the taxpayers.
Senate Bill 352 does nothing more than allow dishonest employers to deny discharged workers the basic right to access unemployment insurance. It stacks the deck against the worker, and even gives employers a taxpayer-funded appeal avenue if somehow the worker does manage to prove their case to an Unemployment Insurance Judge.
The changes proposed in Senate Bill 352 would leave Kansans left with out any help after losing their jobs. This bill sends the message loud and clear to Kansas workers that they are less important than the interests of big business.
SB 416 is the Chamber’s unemployment insurance proposal which makes the following changes:
- Clarified and made consistent circumstances where an employee received a lump-sum separation or severance payment, that UI benefits are postponed for the time commensurate with the number of weeks of compensation the lump-sum would represent.
- Would establish in statute that the deadline for the Secretary of Labor to notify employers of their UI contribution rates for the subsequent rate year would be November 15.
- Would lower new employer rates starting in 2014 tax year, 2015 calendar year when the fund is expected to be solvent and no longer in the borrowing state. Rates would go from 4.0% to 2.7% except for construction which would remain at 6.0%.
- Would modify statute to classify holiday or vacation pay as wages.
- Eliminates the Employment Security Advisory Council.
Senate Bill 416 is now a combination of several anti-worker attacks. It allows the Department of Labor to leave workers high and dry if their employer challenges unpaid wage claims in court. Under current law, the Department of Labor is there to defend unpaid wage claims under $10,000 (SB 355). But in keeping with the Department’s new direction under Brownback appointee Karin Brownlee, the Department of Labor is now focused on defending employers and so for these unpaid wage claims, you would be out on your own to find an attorney to handle your case for you.
Senate Bill 416 also now contains a big change to unemployment benefits. It changes UI law to treat earned wages (such as vacation time) as justification for delaying unemployment benefits (Hb 2638). If you get a lump sum payout when you are laid off – regardless if that payout is for wages already earned – your unemployment benefits would be held back. The bill also lowers employer contributions to the UI Trust Fund at a time when the State is borrowing money (and paying interest on it) to pay benefits!
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce are working hand in hand with Karin Brownlee and waging war on Kansas workers and their rights and lying through their teeth while doing so. Not only have the Chamber and Brownlee proposed numerous extremist anti-worker bills, made numerous attempts to stack the deck against workers, attempted to circumvent the majority opinions of the Senate, but they have also continually shown a reckless disregard for the legislative process and the hard working families in Kansas.
Enough is enough. Your legislators need to hear from you. You can find contact information the members of the conference committee below. Contact them and demand they end the Kansas Chamber and Karin Brownlee’s war on working families and oppose this extremist legislation.
Member District Office Phone
Sen. Susan Wagle 30 785-296-7386
Sen. Julia Lynn 9 785-296-7382
Sen. Tom Holland 3 785-296-7372
Rep. Anthony Brown 38 785-296-7679
Rep. Gene Suellentrop 105 785-296-7680
Rep. Mike Slattery 24 785-296-7687
As promised here is the Kansas Chamber’s full email.