Legislation Would Clarify Work-Search Requirement for Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation

A bill soon to be reintroduced in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly aims to prevent unemployment claimants from undermining their own job searches to keep benefits flowing. 

Last year, state Representative Shelby Labs (R-Doylestown) introduced the legislation to explicitly codify state policy on work-search requirements. The commonwealth requires every individual seeking unemployment compensation (UC) to apply for at least two jobs and follow through with one work-search activity every week. 

Some Pennsylvanians are exempt from these requirements, including union hiring-hall participants, but the vast majority, including self-employed persons and college students, must adhere to them. In a memorandum describing her legislation, Labs recalled learning that many putative employment seekers attempt to skirt the rules, sometimes by making intentionally unhelpful statements during job interviews, skipping scheduled interviews or refusing suitable offers.

“Unfortunately, like many of my colleagues, I have heard numerous complaints from employers who note that many claimants have bluntly told them that they are only applying for a job to meet the work search requirements for UC eligibility — and that UC claimants routinely fail to attend job interviews or make statements that appear to be intended to prevent the claimant from being hired,” she wrote. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the state judiciary have maintained that the the requirements are only satisfied when a jobless person attends his or her scheduled job interviews and refrains from discouraging his or her own hire. Labs’s bill would spell out this stipulation and create forms employers can use to report claimants who engage in such tactics. 

“This legislation is not intended to create new policy,” Labs wrote. “Rather, it is intended to codify what courts have already found to be the intent of the law, and what the department has indicated is our public policy. This bill will not create any additional requirements for any claimant who is searching for and applying for work in good faith.” 

After the representative first introduced her bill last session, it passed the state House in a 176-23 vote and passed the Senate Labor and Industry Committee seven to three, though it didn’t receive a vote of the full Senate. 

Despite apparent majority support in both chambers, challenges may lie ahead for the measure in the new session, insofar as members of the minority party tend to have greater difficulty getting their legislation passed. While the GOP still controls the Senate, Democrats are soon expected to solidify their new, disputed majority in the House when three vacant, deep-blue districts hold special elections next year. (While Democrats won more House races than Republicans did in November, Republicans presently outnumber Democrats because of the vacancies.)

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Man Using a Laptop” by Tima Miroshnichenko.



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