Public hearing for unemloyment

Here are the details:

2018 Public Hearing

The Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council is interested in hearing your comments on Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance program and suggestions for changing the law and improving the program.

The Council represents employee and employer interests and recommends changes to the unemployment law to the Legislature.

Participate in the 2018 public hearing, conducted simultaneously at seven locations throughout the state using video conference technology.

Hearing Date/Time & Locations

Date: Thursday, November 15, 2018
Time: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Attend the public hearing video conference from one of the following locations:
Madison:
UW-Extension
The Pyle Center
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI
Eau Claire:
UW-Eau Claire
Centennial Hall
Room 1804
1698 Park Avenue
Eau Claire, WI
La Crosse:
UW-La Crosse
Wing Technology Center
Room 102
1705 State Street
La Crosse, WI
Superior:
WITC – Superior Campus
Room 101D
600 North 21st Street
Superior, WI
Green Bay:
UW-Green Bay
Instructional Services
Room 1034
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI
Milwaukee:
UW-Milwaukee
Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex
Room 2175
3135 N. Maryland Avenue
Milwaukee, WI
Wausau:
Northcentral Technical College
Center for Business and Industry
Room 127
1000 West Campus Drive
Wausau, WI

Submit Comments

The public is invited to provide comments. If you cannot attend the public hearing, you may submit your comments no later than November 16, 2018:

  • Email: UILawChange@dwd.wisconsin.gov
  •  
  • Written comments may be mailed to:

Janell Knutson, Chair
Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council
P.O. Box 8942
Madison, WI 53708

If you have any questions, contact Robin Gallagher at 608-267-1405 or visit the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council website: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uibola/uiac.

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Bad drug testing advice from DWD

The Department of Workforce Development has another newsletter for employers (here is a link to a PDF version). Understandable, the Department lets employers know about the deep decline in unemployment taxes for employers the last few years, pushes its new on-line portal for employers, publicizes the upcoming public hearing, and other employer-centric issues.

Surprisingly, the Department also states:

Pre-Employment Drug Testing Program Helps Strengthen Wisconsin’s Workforce

With a record low unemployment rate, the prevalence of substance abuse is a growing problem for employers who are already struggling to find qualified workers. As part of DWD’s commitment to ensuring no talent is left on the sidelines, the Department’s Pre-Employment Drug Testing Program is a way employers can help grow Wisconsin’s pool of work-ready job seekers while fostering a drug free workplace within their business.

Provisions included in the UIAC agreed-upon bill, effective April 1, 2018 provide that an employer that submits the results of a positive test or notifies DWD of an individual’s refusal to take a pre-employment drug test is immune from state civil liability for its acts or omissions with respect to the submission of the reported information (Wis. Stat. § 108.133(4)(c)). Go to https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/pre_employment_drug_testing to find additional information, forms, and resources on how to participate in the program.

This advice is plain silly and borderline malpractice. Immunity from civil liability in state law is basically meaningless in the area of medical privacy law. Almost any and every law suit a person might file will be based on federal laws that protect an individual’s medical privacy. Obviously, federal law against disability discrimination may apply in these situations. While HIPAA does not cover employers, it does cover health care providers and all of the entities that contract with those providers, including drug-testing labs. Moreover, a self-insured employer who has an ERISA plan (which pretty much covers all large employers in the state) will mean that employer liability can probably ONLY occur through an action based on federal law. Finally, an employer who fails to follow federal drug-testing requirements will most-likely open themselves up to liability and even bars against future contracts for federal work.

In other words, state law has limited relevance here, and so an immunization from civil liability in state law simply does not mean all that much. Any employer that thinks otherwise is being misled. In actuality, no matter what might be said in state law, an employer essentially has NO immunity from a law suit alleging an invasion of medical privacy at the federal level.

NOTE: drug tests of employees or potential hires are usually NOT an invasion of medical privacy because of federal laws that allow such testing or waivers that the employees sign as part of their employment contract. The problem with reporting failed drug tests of applicants, however, is that neither probably applies. After all, an applicant is not yet an employee and has received nothing of consequence accept a contingent offer of employment.

Improved on-line UI access for employers

The Department of Workforce Development has announced as of 27 Sept. 2018 improved on-line access for employers to their unemployment accounts.

Department of Workforce Development Announces Upgraded Unemployment Insurance Employer Online Services

MADISON (9/27/18) – Today, the Department of Workforce Development announced enhancements that will make it easier for employers to interact and correspond with the Department’s Unemployment Insurance program.

The first improvement is a streamlined and an easy to use UI Employer Online Services and SIDES E-Response sign-on. The second improvement permits employers to view benefit determinations and to file benefit appeals electronically.

“Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to offer unemployment insurance benefits,” said Secretary Ray Allen. “Now, we are leading again as the first state to provide an electronic method for employers to appeal benefit cases through the SIDES Exchange.” Allen noted that unemployed workers already have the ability to appeal such cases electronically.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) SIDES E-Response is a web-based system that allows electronic transmission of information requests from UI agencies to employers and/or Third-Party Administrators (TPAs), as well as transmission of replies containing the requested information back to the UI agencies.

Prior to the enhancements, employers had to use different login credentials for each response sent through SIDES. Employers are now able to use their UI Employer Online Services credentials to respond to inquiries through SIDES. This enhancement makes the system more user-friendly, saving employers time and money.

Newly Upgraded UI Employer Online Services include:

  • Single sign-on for UI Employer Online Services and SIDES E-Response – saves time, reduces complexity
  • Employer appeals can be filed online – view and print benefit determinations, file appeals, amend appeal responses and send attachments

Additional employer benefits include:

  • Safe and secure online services are available to employers for free
  • Eliminates delays and save money on employer paper mailings
  • Reduces improper payments and employer charging, keeping tax rates as low as possible

To sign-up, log-in, or learn more, visit https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/sides

Essentially, these changes expand what is currently available to employer representatives via SIDES to allow all employers to have the same kind of access to their accounts. For small employers who do not have an agent handling their unemployment accounts, this added access is an obvious improvement.

The changes, however, will not be obvious without some exploring of the employer accounts by the employer. So, employers: log into your accounts at the link in the press release above and do some exploring.

Workforce statistics in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado

Jake again has another excellent report on employment and unemployment numbers.

A recent report comparing Minnesota and Wisconsin leads Jake to point out how Minnesota job growth has outpaced Wisconsin, and that Wisconsin has trailed and even slowed when compared to both national averages and Minnesota’s employment growth. Yet, the mystery is that Wisconsin and Minnesota have similar if not identical unemployment rates. The North Star report concludes about Wisconsin:

To a significant extent, Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate is driven by a weak job market that discourages workers from entering or staying in the labor force.

I disagree with this conclusion. Folks in Wisconsin that remain here are staying in the workforce. They just are not collecting unemployment benefits. Rather, as I previously described, they are skipping unemployment completely and using low-wage, service work as a substitute for unemployment benefits. Hence, the unemployment rate is low in this state because it either forces workers to find new jobs immediately whatever the pay being offered or it discourages workers from staying in Wisconsin when one job ends and they have options for other jobs in other states.

In this regard, the population statistics Jake presents about Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado are eye-popping.

At the start of 2011, when Walker and Dem Governors Mark Dayton (Minnesota) and John Hickenlooper (Colorado) took over their respective states, Wisconsin had more people living and working in their state – and a lot more when compared to Colorado (whose unemployment rate was higher than Wisconsin’s at the time, at 8.8%).

Household employment, Jan 2011
Wis. 2,831,200
Minn 2,737,400
Col. 2,486,600

Population, 2011
Wis. 5,705,812
Minn 5,345,967
Col. 5,116,411

Move ahead to today, and that gap has closed. To the point that Colorado may pass Wisconsin by 2020 in both stats if the trend continues.

Household employment, Aug 2018
Wis. 3,083,200 (+252,000)
Minn 3,015,360 (+277,960)
Col. 3,000,250 (+515,650)

Population 2017
Wis. 5,795,483 (+89,671)
Minn 5,576,606 (+230,639)
Col. 5,607,154 (+490,743)

And the growth in the Labor Force over the same period also reflects these trends.

Change in Labor Force Jan 2011- Aug 2018
Wis. +99,540
Minn +163,715
Col. +364,600

These numbers show that household employment in Wisconsin was nearly 3X population growth, whereas similar ratios for Minnesota and Colorado are approximately 1:1. The story in Wisconsin, then, is that folks are not staying around (the anemic population growth), and those that do are forced to take whatever work is available to them rather than trying to find the right job after collecting unemployment benefits for a few weeks (the low unemployment rate).

Minnesota and Colorado are creating modern economies that attempt to improve the lives of all. Hence, folks are flocking to those states, and job growth is matching their fast-paced population growth. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is well on its way to creating a backwater economy. Forward?

 

Kimberly-Clark deal: Really?

Jake’s blog runs through the numbers of the proposed jobs package and finds a much more efficient and far-reaching method for helping the affected workers:

OK, you’re concerned about the people losing their jobs? Why don’t we put together a package that says all of the 610 workers that lose their jobs are eligible for $1,000 a week for the next year (or full salary, whichever is less) – basically a state severance. That would give plenty of time for those individuals to land on their feet with little change in their quality of life. Maximum cost for 1 year? $31.7 million, less than 1/3 of what the total K-C bailout would cost.

I’m sure the workers would take this deal in a heart beat when compared to the proposed bailout package that pads the coffers of an already highly profitable company.

There is more here about property taxes and other facets of the bailout. But, these job numbers are the meat and potatoes of this package. Rather, the corporate welfare is what this bailout is really about.

But, don’t think too hard about this bailout. That will only lead to thinking about the “jobs” at issue with the FoxConn bailout that is already in play. Yikes.

Wisconsin jobs numbers still poor

Jake’s blog is providing excellent analysis of DWD’s job numbers. So, see his September review of the “gold standard” job numbers and his examination of an ALEC report that tries to claim Wisconsin is doing better than Minnesota (short answer: Minn. is doing better).

As Jake writes:

I know administrations of all parties try to put a positive face on how things are going in their state/country. But when that crosses the line into blatantly dishonest campaign cheerleading that can be taken apart with 30 minutes of googling the source data, I get offended. And there are few more defining characteristics of the Walker Administration than offensive cynicism at taxpayer expense.

Still more money for program integrity

Program integrity at the Department of Workforce Development is about to get a big infusion of cash.

NOTE: While program integrity is intended to examine employers who mis-classify their employees as independent contractors, the main focus has apparently always been on charging employees with unemployment fraud. I make this claim because: (1) my numerous dealings with program integrity investigators has always been on behalf of employees charged with unemployment concealment, never on behalf of employers charged with mis-classified employees, (2) for unknown reasons, reports to the Advisory Council about the Department’s worker mis-classification efforts have always been done orally, (3) those oral reports have never indicated that the entire scope of this program is being described, (4) Department publications in 2017 about its program integrity efforts only have information about claimant concealment and not actual mis-classification efforts, and (5) reports from Department insiders indicate that “program integrity” is a widespread effort toward identifying alleged claimant concealment that includes both specific employees solely focused on program integrity and an additional job duty for all of the Department’s claimant investigators and adjudicators.

Recall that the 2015 unemployment changes in 2015 Wis. Act 334 included two provisions that essentially created a slush fund available to the Department for its “program integrity” efforts.

At the 21 September 2017 meeting of the Advisory Council, Secretary Allen requested and the council approved enactment of this assessment. As the financial report at that meeting indicated unemployment tax receipts amounted to $581.7 million, this tax diversion to program integrity will bring in around an additional $58,170. These funds are on top of the $1.63 million transferred to program integrity in proposal D17-08 that is now part of SB399. SB399 is awaiting the governor’s signature.

NOTE: The Department’s 2017 proposed changes to unemployment law which are now part of SB399 are discussed here.

The Department is running the table.

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