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Diegnan, Cruz-Perez Bill Amending Unemployment Compensation is Signed by Governor

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez amending New Jersey’s unemployment compensation law was signed by Governor Phil Murphy today.

“Reforming our unemployment system has been paramount in ensuring that it treats workers fairly,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “For too long, workers have been denied benefits due to a definition of ‘misconduct’ that clearly prejudices working men and women.  Today’s signing brings fairness back into our unemployment system and ensures our safety net is there for our working families when needed.”

The amendment redefines misconduct as misconduct that is improper, intentional, connected with the individual’s work, within the individual’s control, and is not a good faith error of judgment or discretion.  Bad judgment is either a deliberate refusal, without good cause, to comply with the employer’s rules or a deliberate disregard of reasonable standards of behavior, including reasonable safety standards and reasonable standards for a workplace free of drug and substance abuse.

The amendment also reduces the period of time for which individuals are disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation for misconduct connected with work.  It will reduce the disqualification period from seven weeks to five weeks and also remove the category of “severe misconduct” from the law.

Individuals can be temporarily disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance compensation if they are discharged from work due to misconduct.  The level of misconduct determines the period of disqualification and the requirements that individuals must meet to re-qualify.  The original UI law had two levels of misconduct: “misconduct” and “gross misconduct.”  A third level, “severe misconduct,” was added in 2010 upon the recommendation of Governor Christie.

“This is a victory for the working class,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester).  “Men and women deserve an unbiased unemployment system and this amendment rectifies its flaws.”

This amendment takes effect immediately.