Big Changes in Colorado Unemployment Law

Posted by: Jun 15, 2022By Brian Stutheit

On May 25, 2022 Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 22-234. The new law imposes a requirement that

” At the time of separation from an employer, the employer shall provide each employee, in a written format and distribution method, to include electronic or hard copy, information about the availability of unemployment compensation benefits. the information must include:
(a) the employer’s name and address;
(b) the employee’s name and address;
(c) the employee’s identification number or the last four numbers of the employee’s social security number;
(d) the employee’s start date, date of last day worked, year-to-date earnings, and wages for the last week the employee worked; and
(e) the reason the employee separated from the employer.”

Obviously, the written statement about the reason an employee separated from employment is going to be the subject of many disputes. We will be advising our employee clients not to sign anything saying they agree with the reasons for separation, unless there clearly is no dispute over those reasons, or the stated reasons will help qualify them for unemployment. Employers must also be cautious in spelling out reasons for separation, lest they write something which inadvertently allows an employee benefits.

Under the new statute, people seeking a waiver of an overpayment demand will for the first time have some idea what facts are important in order to obtain a waiver. The new law specifies circumstances which the Division of Unemployment must consider when it receives a request for waiver of overpayments. The law also lists factors which make it “inequitable” to force repayment of benefits.

Unemployment recipients will be happy to learn that the new law also prohibits the Division of Unemployment from overpayment collections activities while an appeal, or a waiver request, is pending and unresolved. In the past our office handled many calls from people who were waiting for an appeal hearing to determine if they actually were overpaid, while the Division was simultaneously sending them repayment demands. A new law should not have been necessary to make this important change, but apparently it was.

Finally, the new law says that a person cannot be guilty of obtaining benefits by false representation or willful failure to disclose a significant fact to the Division, if the person provided all information requested by the Division correctly, but the Division failed to take appropriate action with that information or took delayed action when determining or redetermining eligibility; the person provided incorrect information due to conflicting, changing, or confusing information or instructions from the Division; the person was unable to reach the Division despite the person’s best efforts to inquire or clarify what information the person needed to provide, or experienced other similar barriers, including that it was the person’s first time applying for or receiving unemployment benefits, or the person experienced language, education, or literacy barriers; or the person’s employer provided the person with incorrect or untimely information or did not timely report facts.

This may help the unemployment claimant who is being threatened with a penalty for committing fraud. For the first time, we are able to tell our clients that, “yes, sometimes the Division of Unemployment is bound by its own mistakes.”