Thank you for your inquiry regarding how unemployment claims will impact restaurants. As per the above disclaimer, I cannot give legal advice, but the information below may provide some guidance. Here are my thoughts on those issues:
- The attached files contain FAQs for employers regarding Covid-19 issues and the text of the expanded FMLA and paid sick leave provisions of H.R. 6201, which is currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
- Specifically for restaurant employers, if a restaurant is required to shut down completely or even partially, and the business is required to lay some employees off due to no work being available, the employees would be able to file unemployment claims and would presumably qualify for UI benefits, based on a temporary layoff, as long as they are otherwise qualified and eligible to draw UI benefits. However, the business could argue in its claim response that the employer’s account should be protected from chargeback of benefits based on Section 204.022(a)(2) of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (see https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/LA/htm/LA.204.htm#204.022), which provides that an employer’s account will not be charged if the work separation “was required by a statute of this state or an ordinance of a municipality of this state.”
- Disclaimer: this situation is so new that no cases like that have come before the TWC for any decisions, but the above provision is what I would cite if I were in the situation of responding to an unemployment claim.
- Another provision of the law that might protect an affected employer’s account would be Sections 207.046(a)(1) and 204.022(a)(16), which basically apply if “the work-related reason for the individual's separation from employment was urgent, compelling, and necessary so as to make the separation involuntary.”
- If an employer is able to manage the situation with reductions in work hours between 10 – 40 percent, the company may be able to arrange a “Shared Work Plan” with TWC that would allow partial UI benefits corresponding to the reduction in hours – for information, see https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/shared-work.
- Each restaurant will likely have different situations that come up and which will be difficult to predict in advance. Please feel free to let me know of any difficult questions that arise for your members, and I will do my best to get the necessary information for them, or at least find out where they can obtain the information.
Since any kind of employment-related claim can be a very serious matter, you would of course have the option of consulting with a private-sector employment law attorney regarding the company's position in this situation.
Commissioner Representing Employers
Texas Workforce Commission
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TNLA wants to express our concern for all members and their businesses who are being impacted by COVID-19. While we are all looking to find our path to rewire the way we all do business, TNLA is committed to offering efficient ways to provide your company with member benefits to succeed