The Georgia Department of Labor (GADOL) has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing an emergency rule (Emergency Rule 300-2-4-0.5, effective for partial claim weeks beginning on or after March 15, 2020) that imposes certain new requirements on employers concerning the filing of partial unemployment claims. The requirement that employers file partial claims on behalf of their Georgia employees is not new; Georgia has for several years required that employers file such claims. However, the emergency rule now requires that employers use the Employer Portal to file such claims with respect to any week during which an employee (other than an employee within one of the categories excluded from the rule) works less than full-time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. The emergency rule also provides that an employer found to be in violation will be liable for the full amount of benefits paid the employee. We believe this emergency rule was issued at least in part because the procedure it mandates will result in affected employees receiving benefits more quickly. The emergency rule will remain in effect for 120 days, or until GADOL replaces it.
We have received inquiries regarding Thomas & Company’s role with respect to GADOL’s emergency rule. Thomas & Company has never handled Georgia’s partial claims filing process on behalf of its employer clients, and, unfortunately, we cannot do so now. This is true for several reasons, including:
- Presumably due to security concerns, the GADOL does not provide third-party administrators (TPAs), such as Thomas & Company, with access to the Employer Portal System. Thomas & Company is not authorized to receive and use our clients’ credentials for this system. The rule specifies that employers submit these partial claims on behalf of their own employees.
- Much of the information required to comply resides solely with the employer. To take just one example, certain categories of employees are excluded from the rule, and Thomas & Company is not in a position to determine whether a given employee falls within an excluded category.
- Using a TPA in this circumstance would reduce, not enhance, the efficiency sought by the GADOL, as it would add another layer of information transmission and processing, resulting in potential delays in the affected employees’ receiving benefits. (Note that the Employer Portal’s “bulk option” allows employers to file mass separation reports that will expedite payment of benefits.)
While the filing of partial claims in Georgia will continue to be a process that employers must themselves follow, Thomas & Company will, as always, support our clients by providing guidance and information to enable you to complete this process as efficiently as possible.
Please feel free to contact Thomas & Company with any questions you may have, and please be assured we will continue to maintain a flow of communication, with updates and new guidance with respect to unemployment claims and benefits as they become available from the state agencies and the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to other sources.