Marathon Public Library
Management: James Buchen, Robert Oyler
Labor: Dennis Penkalski, Robert Lyons and Red Platz
Chair: Greg Frigo
Department staff present: Robert Whitaker, Andrea Reid, Tom Smith, Brian Bradley, Carla Breber, Michael Sabatke, Jennifer Jirschele, Dick Tillema and Terese Wojick
Others present: Robert Anderson of WCCF
Frigo invited Shirley Doepker to present remarks, because she could not attend the public hearing. Doepker stated that her daughter is a home-care employer and that a former employee of hers should not have been given UI benefits, because she had not been fired. Doepker said that employees should not be allowed to collect benefits when the employer is not really a business, when the job for which the employee was hired did not change but that the employee’s ability to do the job had changed. Frigo said that changes to this law have been previously discussed.
Next, Frigo invited the Department’s small business regulatory coordinator, Jennifer Jirschele, to discuss rules affecting the administrative rule process. Jirschele said that her job duties include examining laws and their impact on small businesses.
Frigo deferred on approving the minutes because a quorum was not present. Frigo suggested that the Council first review the letters.
Smith stated that the third letter came from a widow of a deceased man who claimed benefits based on her past service for her husband’s business. Smith said that she had been denied benefits based on a specific exclusion in the law. The claimant appealed to the Council because she believed that the law applying the exclusion should be changed. The ALJ in this case also found that the claimant had not earned sufficient wages to qualify for UI benefits when performing services for her husband’s estate. A Council member asked if employers paid taxes on spouses, and Smith said that employers do pay taxes on spouses. However, in this case, taxes were not paid on this spouse over time. Also, Smith said that spouses and family members of the employer/business owner could be restricted in the amount of UI benefits they collect. Smith asked if the Council had interest in changing the law. Some discussion occurred, but no Council member expressed interest in changing the law.
Next, Smith introduced a letter from the Wisconsin Migrant Coalition. Smith said this letter was similar to another letter from Legal Action in Wisconsin. The letter asked for the elimination of the provision in the law excluding benefits for employees in the food processing industry. Smith said this issue was before the Council in the last bill cycle. Council members agreed that letter should maintain its “pending review” status.
Next, Smith introduced a letter from Michael Fenley, franchisee of a home repair service business. The Department performed an audit of this business and found that some of the workers were employees, not independent contractors. This determination had been appealed by the employer. The employer stated that the Department’s definition of independent contractor is unfair. Discussion occurred as to whether or not the Department’s definition of independent contractor serves as a sufficient “bright-line” definition for employers.
Smith introduced the next letter from David Hurst, a claimant who was denied benefits because he did not have enough wages outside the “high” quarter in his base period. Hurst stated that the law should be changed. The Council discussed the issue.
Next, Smith introduced a letter specifying that in-home caregivers should be excluded from benefit eligibility for care given to family members. Council members discussed the suggestion. Many Council members stated that further information concerning this issue would be needed to make a decision.
Smith introduced a letter concerning benefit claims for on-call workers. Smith noted that the writers of this letter appeared at a public hearing in May. Council members discussed the potential for scams and fraud involved with on-call employees who can collect benefits even though jobs are technically available to them. Council also discussed whether initial contracts for hire would provide parameters for availability. Frigo said that this issue would be reviewed again in the future.
Smith introduced a letter concerning eligibility for family members of corporate owners. The letter writer’s father-in-law was laid off from a family-owned business and denied benefits. The letter writer suggested that the law be changed. Council members agreed that this type of denial depends on several factors and had been specifically designed to counter fraud with seasonal employees.
Wojick introduced a letter from Rhinelander Paper Company. The letter addressed a suspension of an employee who engaged in fighting at work, but that issue had been resolved satisfactorily with the employer. Second, the employer letter concerned an employee injured outside of work. Benefits were allowed in this case because the employee met the 15% able and available requirement. The employer disagreed with this determination. Third, the employer expressed concern that this particular employee received remuneration from several sources that considered the employee disabled, while the UI division did not and did not consider these payments to be wages that would reduce UI benefits payable to this individual. Frigo said that the issue would be further discussed if the employer appeared at the public hearing.
Next, Smith introduced a letter from a former employee of the UI division. This employee asked that the Council enact a disqualification for attendance issues. In addition, the employee asked that the Council do something about the position cuts the UI Division has recently experienced. There were no questions about this request.
Smith introduced a letter from the LeMans Corporation. The letter requested that the Council approve an “attendance misconduct” change to the unemployment insurance law. LeMans stated that employees are receiving benefits and not showing up for work. This issue had been before the Council in the previous cycle. There were no questions about this letter.
Smith introduced a letter concerning a seasonal truck driver, recalled for his for fourth season due to failure of a pre-employment drug test. Under federal regulations, the employer was prohibited from allowing the employee to work. The employee had been allowed benefits, because drugs had been used before the employee began work for trucking company. Frigo said that this employee had been treated as a new hire because he had been laid off. Council members agreed that further review of this letter would be necessary.
Frigo briefed members who arrived late on the case concerning Doepker and the collection of benefits by home-care employees. Council members also discussed the Rhinelander paper case again.
Council members asked questions about the financial reports. Bradley said that the financial report given to Council members this time is more detailed than in the recent past.
Breber provided the Council with an overview of the use of labor market information to make decisions. Council members said that they would like someone to talk to them specifically about the COED program.
Bradley provided the Council with a one-page summary of SUTA dumping. Bradley focused specifically on the mandatory transfer provision. Also, Bradley discussed the provision prohibiting transfer of experience ratings where there is the intention to get a lower tax rate. Council members asked if information concerning companies transferred to different states would be accessible. Bradley said that this information was not currently available. Frigo said that UI lawyers have also reviewed the SUTA dumping legislation.