MCEDA’s Q3 HR Roundtable featured Ms. Jackie Turner, Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) and Mr. Timothy Rush, Director of Unemployment Insurance. Our guest speakers addressed questions and scenarios related to unemployment fraud. A variation of scenarios were presented in the webinar and our guests from MDES helped us navigate through the scenarios.

Note: The scenarios that were addressed as well as some questions that were asked are below.

Scenario: We have team members who accepted their Return to Work notices. However, they are repeatedly calling in for their shifts stating it’s due to personal or other reasons without any documentation. We have multiple team members also saying that they have no childcare, but they refuse to even try to look for any alternatives. All of these team members are filing for partial unemployment even though we have work available. They are coming up with a variety of reasons not to come in and work their full schedules even after accepting their Return to Work letters.

Question: Is this basically a Refusal to Work based on their original Return to Work offer? How do we handle these frequent situations? We are especially concerned about those claiming childcare issues. We are not subject to the Families First paid leave because we have over 500 team members and a time-off policy, and we don’t want to run afoul of any legal issues.

 Scenario: We have team members who no-call/no-show in order to continue trying to draw unemployment. This is different than calling because these team members don’t even attempt to contact us. Our policy has always been that no-call/no-show is voluntary quit.

Question: Is this still applicable during COVID-19 and within our legal right to document this as voluntary quit?

Scenario: We have a team member who is supposed to be working her full-time, 32-hour week schedule as she accepted her Return to Work notice. However, she then said she has no childcare and could only work 13 hours this week between Thursday – Sunday. However, she is now posting on social media today from the beach in Florida on a day that she should have been working.

Question: Does this constitute unemployment fraud, and can we have that discussion with her? What ramifications does this blatant behavior have for team members?

Question: Are any of the appeal processes in place?  I have employees that have quit with no notice that I have appealed.  I am now getting order of dismissal on these.  Does that mean the employee is receiving UI payment?

Question: When someone files for UI what steps are in place to see if they are deemed to be eligible or noneligible? What is the turn around time on these?

Scenario: This next scenario unfortunately has come up multiple times over the past 4 weeks. A team member says they have been exposed to a family member with COVID-19. They say they are self-quarantining for 14 days, but provide no documentation regarding any exposure, follow-up with a healthcare provider, or that they are being tested. Some refuse to be tested. (Keep in mind as well that a 14-day quarantine is no longer the CDC guideline for exposure.) We also find out from other team members that they plan to file for unemployment while they are out.

Question: How do we handle this situation? Are we supposed to just take a team member’s word about exposure with no documentation? Do they qualify for unemployment if they are out for supposed COVID-19 even though we aren’t subject to Families First and have a time-off policy?

Question: When is the work requirement going to be reinstated? We are getting few applications because no one wants to come to work until August 1 when the $600 federal weekly benefit runs out. We can’t replace these team members when no one will apply for jobs since they’re making more at home on unemployment.

Question: Is MDES coming out with anything regarding unemployment fraud that we can post and share with our team members? (for example, a publication)

Question: We have heard discussions that MDES was developing a new function that would allow employers to review their records and see who is filing a claim against their account.  If an employee has been terminated, refused work or was still working full time, how could the employer report the claimant’s status?

Question: When we get the Notice to Employer of Claim Filed, the Quick Access System does not allow you to enter a “Not Unemployed” or “Still Working” separation reason.  If we have an employee that has never been separated, this would allow us to notify MDES much quicker. Does this function already exist, and if not – could this be implemented?

Question: If an employer is working 5 days and an employee misses a day how are we to report the days missed? Do we use the refusal to work on the website?