Updated: Nov 5, 2020
By Sarah Everhart
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Although not all farm employers participate in the Maryland Unemployment Insurance program (check out this past post for farm exemption information) for those that do, it is likely that at some point a past employee will file for unemployment insurance benefits. The time frame for employers to respond to unemployment insurance claims is very tight and can get easily overlooked, especially if the notice comes in the middle of the busy growing season. As is explained below, failing to respond to an unemployment insurance notification can result in an increase in the unemployment tax. This post will outline some of the basics of the program and what employers need to know about responding to a claim. For a more detailed explanation, check out this publication.
An initial point for employers to remember is that it is unlawful for an employer, for any reason, to require an employee to release, repay, pay into, or waive any unemployment insurance benefit rights. All unemployed workers in Maryland are entitled to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. This right to file for benefits, however, does not guarantee eligibility for benefits under Maryland’s Unemployment Insurance Law.
After an unemployed worker applies for benefits, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) will make both a monetary and a non-monetary determination of qualification for benefits based on the worker’s reason for separation. In order to determine why the worker is no longer employed, the DLLR will send the employer a “Request for Separation Information” form. This form serves two purposes: it informs the employer that a claim has been filed, and it requests that the employer provide the reason for separation. The facts presented on the form will be used to determine eligibility for benefits. By law, employers must complete and return the “Request for Separation Information” by the due date (eight calendar days after form is generated) indicated on the form, or be assessed a $15 penalty.
Employers have three ways to respond to the “Request for Separation Information”:
By accessing the State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) by going to DLLR website at http://www.mdunemployment.com under “Employers”;
By mail (to the address appearing on each form); or
Via the internet.
If an employer fails to return the form by mail or via the internet, and the due date has passed, benefits will be paid if the worker had indicated that he/she was separated due to lack of work or temporary layoff.
If the reason for separation given on the “Request for Separation Information Notice” or via the internet is something other than layoff or lack of work, the employer may be contacted by telephone to provide additional information when the worker’s fact finding interview is held. Employers should to respond to any telephone message and/or request for information within 48 hours, otherwise a determination will be made based on the information provided by the worker. For more information on what to expect during this call, check out page 23 of this guide.
A worker is eligible to collect benefits if the job loss was through no fault of his/her own. If a worker voluntarily quits employment for reasons determined to be “good cause” – meaning a reason directly attributable to the employment – he/she is eligible for benefits. It is in the employer’s interest to inform the DLLR of the actual reasons that the worker left the employment. According to the DLLR, “[i]n evaluating a voluntary quit, the Agency will generally apply the ‘reasonable and prudent’ test; that is, would a reasonable and prudent person have quit under the same circumstances?”
Once a determination has been made, either from a fact-finding interview or a hearing, a “Notice of Benefit Determination” is mailed to the worker and the employer. The “Notice of Benefit Determination” will state the issue(s) adjudicated and the applicable section(s) of the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Law. The Notice will also state the reason for the decision to allow or deny benefits. When a worker is awarded unemployment benefits the employer’s account is charged the benefits paid to the former employee, which will usually increase the employer’s tax rate and will result in higher tax payments that will enable the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to recover the benefits paid over a three year period. Both the worker and the employer have the right to appeal this determination within 15 days. The last day to file an appeal and instructions on how to proceed is noted on the form.
Employers may appeal a liability determination, a benefit charge, or a tax rate assignment in writing within 15 days of the decision. It is important to follow instructions indicated on forms received for the proper address to submit your appeal. The employer should include in the appeal: the employer’s name, the employer’s account number, the name and title of the individual submitting the protest, the date of the protest, and most importantly, the specific factual reason for the protest or appeal. The employer should also attach any documentation that supports their contention. Employers with questions can contact the DLLR Unemployment Division at 410-949-0033 or email@example.com.