The Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled that the 2013 amendments to the Kansas Employment Security Act apply only prospectively. In other words, unemployment claims should be decided based on the law in place at the time the claim arose, not the law in effect at the time the case was actually decided.
Katlin Gable worked as a secretary for a small trucking company. She shared a workspace with Thomas Blake, the company’s owner, in a bedroom-turned-office in his home. She quit after he began watching a pornographic video immediately next to her and offered her women’s excitement pills. Although she didn’t confront him at the time, she later told Blake over the phone that she was resigning and that he had crossed the line, making her very uncomfortable.
Gable filed for unemployment benefits. Her claim was denied because she didn’t report the misconduct to her boss and was therefore found to have left work without good cause. She challenged that decision through the appeals process and eventually ended up before the Kansas Court of Appeals.
There was no question that Gable left work because of unwelcome harassment. The only issue was whether she was required to report the harassment to Blake before resigning to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Gable quit her job and filed for benefits before the 2013 amendments to the unemployment law went into effect. In determining which law to apply, the court held that the amendments did not apply retroactively, so the law in effect when Gable left her employment and filed an unemployment claim still applied. Under the old law, she was entitled to a liberal legal interpretation in her favor. The new law, by contrast, expressly says that it should be applied neutrally, in favor of neither the employee nor the employer.
Applying the old standard, the court ruled that the Employment Security Board of Review made a mistake by finding that Gable was required to report the harassment to her boss before resigning and by finding that she had quit without good cause. Accordingly, she was entitled to unemployment benefits. Gable v. Kansas Employment Security Board of Review, Case No. 109,414, 2013 WL 5610349 (Kan. Ct. App., Oct. 11, 2013).
As we’ve previously reported, the 2013 unemployment law amendments are largely favorable to employers, and you can proactively take steps to benefit from the changes. You should be familiar with the new rules so you can help your organization take advantage of them to reduce your susceptibility to unemployment claims. However, claims that arose before July 1, 2013, will be decided under the law as it existed then.