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Worker “Misconduct” Questions in Bill on Governor’s Desk

March 1, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. – Changing a word or two can make a big difference in a law.

Workers' rights groups say a bill that started out dealing with denying unemployment benefits to workers fired for willful misconduct ended up being a bill that means workers could be fired and denied benefits for just about anything.

Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, says words such as "intentional" and "willing" were dropped from the legislation, so now "misconduct" is undefined.

"Now it's set up so that somebody can just make an honest mistake and they could be fired and not get unemployment benefits,” he says.

The Wyoming State AFL-CIO is also raising concerns about the bill – both the AFL-CIO and the Equality State Policy Center want the bill vetoed.

There was broad support for the original bill and amendments, and general agreement that workers fired for sabotage or actions to deliberately hurt an employer should not be able to collect unemployment.

Neal says the language changes in the final bill also raise questions about a 1986 Wyoming Supreme Court decision on worker misconduct and unemployment benefits.

"It just got changed to the point that it really tilts the power too much in favor of the bosses,” he says. “And so we think that the governor should ask the legislature to work on it again next year."

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY