COVID-19 Emergency Unemployment Rules for Georgia Employers

On March 16, 2020, the Georgia Department of Labor (“GDOL”) promulgated two new emergency rules that entitle full time employees to unemployment benefits when their work schedules are temporarily reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis.  These rules will tentatively remain in effect for 120 days, but could be superseded earlier by the issuance of new rules or by Governor Kemp’s declaring the Public Health State of Emergency to be at an end.

The emergency rules require that employers file partial unemployment claims for full time employees “with respect to any week during which an employee works less than full-time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.”  The emergency rules do not define the terms “full time” or “total or partial company shutdown.” In the absence of any guidance, the best practice is to use the employee’s normal working schedule and the company’s normal staffing levels and operating hours as baselines to define what constitutes a reduction in working hours or a full or partial company shutdowns.

The claim form to be submitted is DOL-408, which is a single page with brief sections for each of the employer and employee to fill out.  The DOL-408 may only be filed electronically through GDOL’s Employer Portal, and one form must be submitted for each pay period in which the employee’s working time is reduced due to COVID-19.  There must be at least 7 days between pay periods.  While employers may wish from an efficiency standpoint to submit Forms DOL-408 in advance when reduced working schedules have already been announced, the GDOL cannot accept preemptive filings.  Instead, its directives are clear that the DOL-408 must be submitted only after the end of the subject pay period.  Practically speaking, for the next 120 days, employers will need to prepare and e-file Forms DOL-408 for all affected employees at the end of each pay period.

Full time employees who are not eligible for the benefits contemplated by the emergency rules include: (1) seasonal workers; (2) those who are on a scheduled vacation; (3) those who have been employed in another state within the last 18 months; and (4) those who have had federal government or active military service in the last eighteen months.

The emergency rules also lighten the burdens on employees to receive partial unemployment benefits.  Work search requirements are waived for all claims filed on or after March 14, 2020, with that reprieve to remain in effect for 120 days, or until Governor Kemp declares the Public Health State of Emergency over.

More information can be found at the GDOL’s website.  If you have any questions about any aspect of the GDOL’s emergency rules or any other of the fast-paced developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact a member of AGG’s Employment Law Team.