On March 28, 2013, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law House Bill 2147, which shifts the initial obligation to provide information regarding a claim for unemployment benefits from the employer to the individual applying for the benefits. HB 2147 requires that, at the time of filing for unemployment benefits, an individual must provide information and documents supporting the basis of his or her claim to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), the department responsible for administering unemployment benefits. The documentation and information must be sufficient for DES to determine the individual’s eligibility, and DES has the authority to find the individual’s claim invalid if the individual has the ability to produce such documents and fails to do so.

The new legislation also explicitly shifts the burden of proof for unemployment insurance eligibility to the individual when the employer provides documentation demonstrating that the former employee either voluntarily resigned or abandoned employment. HB 2147 provides that “documentation” can include written statements from the employer supporting its position that the individual resigned, or that the individual failed to report for work. This option affords employers the opportunity to support their position with documentation even when the individual’s resignation was verbal, or where he or she did not return to complete resignation paperwork.

While HB 2147 also provides that DES must make “reasonable efforts” to obtain the information necessary to determine eligibility, and that employers must disclose relevant documentation upon request from DES, the legislation places a clear burden on the individual to support his or her claim for benefits.

HB 2147 does not amend the procedure for employers to contest a claim for unemployment benefits. Employers should continue to review and timely respond to the DES on all claims for unemployment benefits.

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Ogletree Deakins has one of the largest teams of employee benefits and executive compensation practitioners in the United States. As part of a firm that focuses on labor and employment law, our Employee Benefits Practice Group has a special ability to relate technical experience to the client’s “big picture” issues.

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