Confirming that no good deed goes unpunished,Florida law now requires employers to respond to all unemployment claimsor face a penalty. All employers are subject to this penalty, even if theemployer does not contest the claim or wants the employee to receive benefitsduring their job search.

In 2011 Congress passed the Unemployment Insurance Integrity Act, requiringstates to revise their own unemployment statutes to curtail the estimatedbillions of dollars in unemployment overpayments made to ineligible claimants.However, a report by the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that, in Florida,only 0.48 percent of these overpayments are attributable to employers, while50.42 percent of these overpayments are attributable to claimants and 9.37percent of overpayments are attributable to state agencies.

Following Congress’ mandate, Florida law now provides for a 15% penalty onindividuals fraudulently collecting reemployment assistance benefits, but alsopenalizes employers who do not timely respond to claim notices or requests forinformation. All employers must respond to a notice of unemployment claimwithin 20 days after the mailing date of the notice or, in lieu of mailing,within 20 days after the delivery of the notice. If the employer or its agent failto timely or adequately respond to a notice of claim or request forinformation, the employer’s account will be taxed for benefits paid that mightotherwise not be taxed to the employer’s account.

Only time will tell if the amended unemployment insurance law effectivelylessens unemployment overpayments. In the meantime, employers should timelyrespond adequately to all notices of claim or requests for information to avoidpotential penalties. Also, employers should no longer promise not to oppose a terminatedemployee’s claim for unemployment benefits.