Bill changing Oklahoma unemployment benefits process advances to House

Oklahoma House Bill 1911, which requires terminated employees to prove they weren't fired for misconduct in order to receive unemployment benefits, passed a legislative committee Wednesday.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 14, 2013

The unemployment benefits stop when a terminated employee is found to be ineligible, but the state doesn't take action to recover the money already paid to that employee, Echols said.

HB 1911 still would allow immediate benefits for terminated employees, but they would be required to sign an affidavit stating they didn't meet the criteria of misconduct, which would disqualify an unemployment benefit claim, he said. Misconduct — according to HB 1911 — includes excessive or unexplained absenteeism or tardiness, dishonesty, wrongdoing, violation of a law, and unsuitability for the required work.

“We don't need people cheating the system,” Echols said. “We've got to fix the fraud issue.”

Bill must pass review

HB 1911, in addition to needing to win the approval of the Legislature and the governor, also must pass a review by the Federal Employment Opportunity Commission because Oklahoma receives federal funds that make up part of the money paid in unemployment claims.

Echols said Oklahoma businesses are paying high unemployment rates caused partially by fraudulent unemployment benefit claims. The fraudulent claims also reduce the money available for terminated employees who deserve the benefits.

“If there's less money in the fund, benefits go down,” he said. “Those people that do deserve it are getting less money.”