GUIDE SHEET 11

LABOR DISPUTES

Generally, most States deny unemployment benefits to claimants if they are out of work due to a labor dispute other than a lockout at the place of employment, although State laws and policies vary regarding conditions of eligibility when labor disputes are involved. Some States allow benefits because of a lockout or failure of the employer to conform to the provisions of a labor contract, while others deny benefits for the duration of the dispute regardless of the cause. In almost all States, a denial period is tied to the duration and progress of the dispute.

The circumstances surrounding the dispute must be fully investigated to establish whether the claimant is a member of a striking class of employees; the cause of the dispute, (e.g., an employer's failure to conform with the terms of a labor contract); when the dispute arose, and the duration of the dispute.

If the dispute has ended, information about the length of time the company will need to resume normal operations and the reason for any delay is required to determine the claimant's employment status at the time the dispute ended. For example, the employer may not be able to resume normal operations because of the lead time necessary to prepare or repair equipment (if damages occurred during the dispute), thus causing a lack of work situation. Investigation of the impact of the dispute on operations may be a factor in determining the claimant's eligibility for benefits, depending on the time benefits are sought.

State law and policy may provide for the allowance of benefits where a labor dispute is in progress at the claimant's place of employment, but the claimant is not participating in or directly involved in the dispute. This is particularly important if State law and policy prohibit penalizing workers who are locked out of work as a result of the employer's actions.

BASIC QUESTIONS AND FACTORS TO CONSIDER

A. WHAT GROUPS ARE INVOLVED IN THE DISPUTE?

It is necessary to identify who is involved in the dispute, the extent of their involvement, and whether the claimant is a part of any group involved or affected by the labor dispute. This is important when determining who is actively participating in the dispute, and who is unemployed as a result of the dispute through no fault of their own. Some classes of workers may be ready, willing and able to work, but are prevented from doing so because they are locked out of their place of employment as a result of the dispute.

Corroboration of the claimant's status with the employer and the claimant's union should provide sufficient information to establish if the claimant is directly participating in the dispute.

Information about the nature of the dispute, including identification of those directly involved and those adversely affected by the dispute, must be obtained from the claimant, union and employer. The SESA may also need to obtain the facts of the dispute from an independent arbitrator who is leading settlement negotiations.

It is important to determine if the individual is actually participating in the labor dispute. Could the claimant have continued to work or returned to work, except for refusal to cross a picket line set up by another class of workers? What prevented the claimant from returning to work? Was safety a factor? Are there other reasons?

B. WHEN DID THE DISPUTE BEGIN?

The date the labor dispute began establishes the duration of any disqualification the State may impose and which must be cited in the determination.

C. WHAT WAS THE CLAIMANT'S EMPLOYMENT STATUS AT THE TIME OF THE DISPUTE?

It is important to know if the labor dispute was the cause of the claimant's unemployment or if the claimant was in a period of unemployment at the time the labor dispute began.

If the claimant was in an indefinite layoff status at the time of the dispute then he/she may not be subject to disqualification because his/her unemployment is not related to labor dispute.

If the claimant had a definite date of recall, was recalled by the employer during the labor dispute, but refused to report, a separation issue may exist requiring resolution under State separation provisions.

D. WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE LABOR DISPUTE?

1. Because most States have adopted the principle of neutrality in labor disputes, disqualifications may be perfunctory, with benefits denied for the duration of the dispute. If this is the case, then the issuance of determinations is a fairly routine matter not requiring a great deal of inquiry. The State's statutory provisions are applied uniformly, the denial is issued and no further inquiry is required. However, some States have specific exceptions to the neutrality principle and permit the allowance of benefits under certain conditions.

2. Some States allow benefits in cases of a lockout to avoid penalizing certain employees for the actions of the employer, for the employer's failure to abide by the terms of a labor contract, and when the employer failed to conform to any Federal or State law on labor standards matters which are central to the labor dispute such as wages, hours, or working conditions. Facts must be obtained from the interested parties such as claimant, employer, and bargaining unit (if applicable), or other third parties to establish if any of the above conditions exist.

The weight of the evidence obtained in conjunction with applicable State and Federal labor standards shall provide the basis for evaluating the quality of labor dispute determinations.

E. WHAT EMPLOYMENT LOCATIONS ARE INVOLVED IN THE DISPUTE?

Identifying the location of the dispute is important to establish whether it directly affects the claimant's place of employment. The dispute may occur at a remote location, but render the claimant's facility inoperable or diminish operations causing the claimant's unemployment.

The relationship of the dispute to the operations of the claimant's place of employment must be probed because the claimant may belong to the same class of employees whose actions at one location are causing disruptions in operations at other employer locations. State law or policy dictates if the labor dispute determinations reach beyond the immediate location affected to include any establishment within the United States which is functionally dependent or integrated with the striking facility owned by the same employing unit.

F. IS THE CLAIMANT FINANCING OR DIRECTLY INTERESTED IN THE LABOR DISPUTE?

Many States deny benefits to any individuals or classes of workers who are actively engaged in the labor dispute or are financing or otherwise directly interested in the dispute. Facts obtained from the claimant (or the claimant's agent if he/she belongs to a collective bargaining unit) will establish whether the claimant falls in any of these categories.

The claimant's bargaining unit, although not directly involved in the labor dispute, may be subsidizing one or the other parties in the dispute. In most cases this is in the form of a financial contribution from the claimant's union to the striking union. The intent is to build support for the claimant's bargaining unit which also has a collective bargaining agreement with the same employer. By offering such financial support, paid through the claimant's union dues or other assessments, a direct interest in the outcome of the dispute is exhibited (a self-serving act which may serve to prolong the labor dispute).



HINT: Do not penalize the adjudicator for missing claimant information if the necessary facts are furnished by a representative of the labor union involved in the dispute.







Factfinding

A. IDENTITY OF GROUPS INVOLVED IN THE DISPUTE

B. DATE LABOR DISPUTE BEGAN

C. CLAIMANT'S EMPLOYMENT STATUS AT THE TIME OF THE DISPUTE

D. REASON(S) FOR THE LABOR DISPUTE

E. LOCATIONS INVOLVED IN THE DISPUTE

F. FINANCING/DIRECTLY INTERESTED IN THE LABOR DISPUTE