Missouri unemployment reform act sent to governor
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Missouri unemployment reform act sent to governor

Date: April 29, 2014
By: Emma Nicolas
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 510

JEFFERSON CITY - Acting up on the job could land Missourians without unemployment benefits, under a measure sent to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk, Tuesday April 29.

Currently, Missourians run the risk of not receiving unemployment benefits if they leave their job voluntarily without “good cause” or if they perform “misconduct”. This bill would broaden the definition on what qualifies as “misconduct” to include any breach on the employer’s rules or standards. In addition, the measure defines “good cause” as anything a reasonable employer sees as a fit reason; such as illness or disability. 

The governor vetoed a similar bill last session saying that the bill's definition of "misconduct" was too broad and would include employees behavior outside of the workplace. This year's bill is adjusted to say that employees can become unqualified for unemployment based on outside of work behavior that is "connected to work." Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Jackson County, the House spokesperson for the bill, gave the example of a manager who is fired for making a sexual reference, outside of the workplace, to a female co-worker on how she could receive a promotion, could not receive unemployment.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he opposed the bill last year, but he supports this year's version.

"I will be voting yes on this bill, it is significantly better than last year, but it is does not make things better on workers," Webber said.

Employees will be allowed to challenge the accusation of  “misconduct”, but must be able to prove that they did not know the rule, the rule is unlawful or the rule is not enforced evenly. Opponents of the bill said this puts the burden of proof on the workers instead of on the business. During debate on the House floor, several lawmakers commented on how this bill allows for businesses to take advantage of their employees.

"This bill is defective on its face it allows an employer to terminate employees at their whim and there are just no protections in this bill...this leaves employees completely and utterly at the mercy of their employer"- Rep. Jeff Roorda, D- Jefferson County.

The governor might have to act on the bill in time for legislators to be able to vote on any veto before the General Assembly's May 16 adjournment.

As soon as the bill is formally transmitted to Nixon, he will have 15 days to act on the bill.

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