State, business, labor reach deal on unemployment laws

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Monday said it had reached agreements with business and labor groups on changes to the state’s unemployment insurance laws.

Republican and Democratic legislative staff confirmed a negotiated bill is ready and could be called for votes as soon as Tuesday.

The governor’s office said the changes to Illinois unemployment insurance law will strengthen deterrents against fraud, abuse and negligence; eliminate a $470 million tax increase and $300 million benefit reduction; and better protect workers eligible for Social Security.

The package allows Illinois to deny benefits for employees who lose their jobs for actions including:

  • Providing false information on an employment application;
  • Damaging an employer’s property through grossly negligent conduct;
  • Drinking or consuming illicit drugs on the job;
  • Endangering themselves or coworkers through grossly negligent conduct;
  • Knowingly and repeatedly violating reasonable, written attendance policies;
  • Not maintaining required licenses, registrations or certifications.
  • Refusing to obey an employer’s reasonable and lawful instructions unless the refusal is due to the lack of ability skills or training or if following the instructions would result in an unsafe act.

The negotiated bill also allows recently separated workers eligible for Social Security to receive a full unemployment insurance benefit, according to the governor’s office.

Currently, 50 percent of the amount an older worker receives for Social Security is subtracted from the potential unemployment insurance benefit.

The changes are contained in the latest amendment to Senate Bill 1941.

“We have a lot of work left to turn around Illinois, but today’s agreement is a step towards making us more competitive so we can increase investment in the state and grow jobs,” Rauner, R-Winnetka, said in a news release.

Said Tim Drea, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer: “Because it is so vital to the economy and safety net for working families, Unemployment Insurance negotiations are always difficult, but all parties were committed to the process and an equitable agreement was achieved.”

Said Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association: “While the discussions were rigorous, they were always fair and ultimately productive.”

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