JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Employees fired for missing work and for disobeying company rules could have a harder time claiming unemployment benefits under a bill passed by the Missouri Legislature Wednesday.
The House voted 98-57 Wednesday to send the measure to Gov. Jay Nixon. The Senate passed the same bill in February.
Current law denies unemployment benefits to workers who were fired because they engaged in “misconduct” at the workplace. But the legislation would expand the definition of “misconduct” to include things like chronic absenteeism and “knowing” violations of an employer’s rules.
The bill’s supporters said during the House debate that many workers fired for sleeping on the job are currently allowed to collect benefits. The current standard of misconduct requires “willful disregard” of an employer’s interests and a “deliberate” violation of rules.
Opponents argued the measure would deny unemployment benefits to people fired for unjust reasons, such as forgetting to wear a nametag.
“Let’s not again kick the worker while they’re down,” said Rep. Courtney Curtis, D-St. Louis.
Employees fired for a rule they did not know or that was unlawful would still be able to receive unemployment compensation.
Senator Will Kraus from the Kansas City area says the proposed measure will cut costs to businesses who are the ones who pay the unemployment benefits by cracking down on workers who are guilty of outrageous misconduct and still get benefits.
"I think there are people getting benefits that should not get them," he said.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce said in a statement released after the bill passed Wednesday that the measure would help pay down the state’s $500 million debt on unemployment insurance by reducing abuses to the system.
“It’s a bill designed to protect the system for those who need it, employees that are terminated at no fault of their own,” the statement said.