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Scott Walker, Governor
Raymond Allen, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Monday, May 2, 2016
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/news/
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On Twitter: @WIWorkforce

Unemployment Insurance Reforms Protect System for Workers and Employers

A Guest Column by Secretary Ray Allen, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Since Governor Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin's improving economy, along with a redoubled focus to protect Unemployment Insurance (UI) as a short-term safety net for those who are eligible, has stabilized the UI Trust Fund, reduced the tax burden on Wisconsin employers, and helped members of the workforce who are out of work through no fault of their own find new employment quickly.

The positive impact is unmistakable. Today, over 3 million people in Wisconsin are employed - the most in our state's history, our unemployment rate is 4.5% - a half-point below the national rate, and the employer-funded UI Trust Fund ended 2015 with a positive balance of $743 million, reducing the UI tax burden for employers by $97 million a year as UI claims reach their lowest point in a quarter century.

Under Governor Walker's leadership in partnership with the Legislature and other key stakeholders, Wisconsin has achieved these results through a combination of job-creation strategies, accountability measures to protect the UI system from attempts by anyone – employee and employer alike – to abuse the UI system, and through UI policy reforms that reflect common sense and balance eligibility rules governing Wisconsin's UI program with other states.

One such UI reform – the substantial fault standard that took effect in January 2014 – was the subject of a recent appeals court ruling that questioned how the standard was applied by an employer. Substantial fault may arise when an employee violates a requirement but the violation does not rise to the level of misconduct.

The substantial fault standard brings greater clarity to both employer and employee for UI eligibility. The law makes clear that substantial fault does not include minor violations of rules unless the employee repeats the violation after warning. This standard also does not apply to unintentional mistakes made by the employee, or for not performing work because the employee lacks skill, ability, or was not supplied the equipment.

In Wisconsin, individuals who lose their employment through no fault of their own and are deemed eligible for UI benefits under state and federal law, have a reliable and more clear UI system that provides short-term assistance while they actively seek new employment. Employers have experienced a reduction in UI taxes due to the Trust Fund's improvement, adding to the positive business climate created under Governor Walker's leadership.

A system that motivates workers to support themselves and their families, brings greater fairness to employers who pay into the UI Trust Fund, and supports a climate that has a higher number of people employed than ever before in our state's history, is a system that will move our economy and state forward.