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nice guys finish last

A client in downtown Baltimore intended to eliminate a whole office. Two hundred law professionals would hit the streets all at once, glutting the local job market for their profession. Obviously, it would take some time for all those people to find a new niche in another skyscraper. So the firm thought they might do a good deed by keeping the office open and paying these people their salaries for several more months, just so they could use the premises and equipment to search for jobs elsewhere in town. Before doing this, the firm wisely called us, asking how would this affect their Unemployment Compensation rate.

I'm sorry to say, we had to warn them what happened to Westinghouse two years before when they did the same thing in that same state. You see, in October of 1992, Westinghouse sent out a whole batch of pink slips. They told their people that Westinghouse was going to carry them on the payroll for another two months. During the two months, the company established a Resource Center where these people could get job counseling, get help writing resumes, and look at job postings. They should let their supervisors know where they were, but otherwise, their only duty was to hunt jobs.

Thirty-three employees filed unemployment claims. And they wanted benefits to begin the same day they were handed their pink slip. Now wait a minute, said Westinghouse, we carried these people another two months after the layoff. Paid their salaries and they came in The UC Commission granted benefits anyway.

Westinghouse spent two years in court. But in 1995 they lost the case. Basically, the State said that these people weren't being paid for working; they were being paid to look for work. That meant they are out of work. These claimants collected their Unemployment and their salary simultaneously.

Now let me ask you this: Do you think this type of decision encourages Westinghouse to be a real nice guy next time around? How about our client? When we told them what happened to the other guy, do you think they were encouraged to be generous? So what is the real purpose of Unemployment Compensation? Is it to tide someone over when he has lost his job through no fault of his own? Or is it to pay someone to bite the hand that feeds them?

But let's look at this same problem from the opposite direction: I once encountered an employer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who went to court to try to get a laid off employee PAID benefits, and lost. He was a good employee. He had worked for them for years. But this plumbing supply company had to close the warehouse he worked in. He was plainly laid off. An open and shut case. But the State would not pay him.

Here's why: This man had served his country for twenty years in the military, and so he had earned a small permanent pension. The amount of his pension was deducted from his Unemployment benefits, leaving nothing for him to collect. Oh, the State was perfectly happy to collect taxes all along from the employer to cover the veteran in question with this "insurance" system. In fact, in Pennsylvania, the State even collected a small tax from the employee as well as the employer. So they were taxing this man himself for a benefit he could never receive, and the company for an employee who wasn't covered. The company fought all the way to the Board of Review in Harrisburg, but couldn't help the man.

What do you think? Should a patriot be denied benefits because he has devoted twenty perilous years to the service of his country? Should an employer have to pay Unemployment charges for fellows who they are trying to help land on their feet?

Nice guys finish last.

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