On March 16, the Alabama Secretary of Labor announced modifications to the Alabama unemployment compensation rules. These changes are meant to provide employees who are affected by COVID-19 an opportunity to apply for unemployment benefits when under the current rules they would likely be ineligible.

Under the modified rules, eligible employees will be entitled to a maximum of $275 per week for a total of three weeks. Some individuals will be able to receive additional benefits beyond the three-week period, but the state Department of Labor will consider those requests on a case-by-case basis. Eligible employees may also file claims for partial benefits. For example, if an employee’s pay has been cut to $200 per week, he or she can file a claim for partial benefits and receive the additional amount (up to the maximum of $275 per week), which in this example would be $75 per week. The ADOL has urged employers to file these partial claims for benefits on behalf of their employees.

Eligible employees include the following:

  • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,

  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns,

  • Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or

  • Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Employees who are being paid to work from home, or those who are receiving paid sick, vacation, or other PTO time, are not eligible employees under these modified rules.

In order to receive benefits, Alabama’s normal unemployment compensation rules require an individual to be “able and available” to work. Traditionally, the individual must also prove that he or she is searching for work (submitting applications, attending interviews and job fairs, etc.). For claims related to COVID-19, individuals must only “take reasonable steps to preserve their ability to come back to that job when the quarantine is lifted or the illness subsides.” Additionally, normal unemployment compensation rules have a one-week waiting period, meaning that employees must be out of work for one week before they can begin the claims process. This requirement has also been waived for COVID-19 claims.

On March 20, the ADOL announced that employers’ experience rating will not be charged for COVID-19 claims. The ADOL has also encouraged Alabama businesses that temporarily close or lay off employees to consider filing unemployment claims on the behalf of their employees. If instead the employees files the claim, an employer should inform the DOL it is waiving its right to respond to the Request for Separation Information. This will speed up the process for employee claims.

For more information, employers should visit https://labor.alabama.gov/

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