Stop unemployment checks to embezzlers

LANSING – Senate legislation introduced Thursday by state Sen. John Proos would prohibit individuals from qualifying for unemployment benefits if the worker was terminated due to being arrested or charged for crimes committed against his employer.

“Unemployment benefits are intended to protect workers who lose their job through no fault of their own,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Michigan’s system is entirely funded by employers, and the fact that unemployment checks are being sent to embezzlers is outrageous and must stop.”

Proos said Senate Bill 758 was inspired by a Southwest Michigan case in which a terminated employee of a local business recently plead guilty to embezzlement and larceny of $232,000 from the company and was sentenced to three to 20 years in prison. The business was informed by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency that the former employee was collecting unemployment benefits at their expense while pending trial.

“The robbery of more than $200,000 from a local business was a severe breach of trust, but forcing the family owners to pay unemployment to this criminal was a betrayal of justice,” Proos said. “Crime shouldn’t pay. My legislation is about standing up for our small businesses and restoring fairness to a system that victimizes employers when employees steal from them.”

Michigan courts have defined the type of misconduct sufficient to disqualify an employee from receiving unemployment benefits. “Misconduct” within the law is currently limited to actions that are in willful or wanton disregard to an employer’s interest.

“Clearly, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an employer should be enough to disqualify someone from unemployment benefits,” Proos said. “My reform would put common sense back into the system by specifically saying that Michigan will not be sending checks to former employees charged or convicted of this criminal activity.”

If the former workers are acquitted of the crimes in which they are accused, Proos’ proposal would allow them to apply for unemployment benefits and be paid a retroactive amount from the termination of their employment upon qualifying for benefits.