The Massachusetts State Legislature recently enacted G.L.c.151A §38A in response to a federally imposed mandate prohibiting states from providing relief of charges to an employer’s unemployment compensation account when an employer (or an employer’s agent) fails to respond timely or adequately to a request for information by the Department of Unemployment Assistance.

When an employer (or an employer’s agent) is sent an initial written or electronic request for information relating to a claim for unemployment benefits the response must be received timely and with adequate information to enable the agency to make a correct eligibility determination on the individual’s claim for benefits.  For example, if DUA fails to receive a response from an employer (or employer’s agent) then sufficient information would not be available to make a determination and the employer’s failure to respond would be considered inadequate. 

In order for a response to be considered adequate the agency must be able to issue a determination on eligibility without further clarification from the employer.  This means all the information the employer has or can obtain must be provided on fact-finding questionnaires; answers must include all details and any documentation pertaining to the issue presented. 

When determining whether or not an employer’s response to a request for information is timely, it must be decided whether the employer is at fault for the late return of the request for information.  The employer will be considered to be at fault for failing to return information in a timely manner unless it can be established that agency error resulted in the notice being sent to an incorrect address or if it was impossible for an employer to respond in a timely manner.

If it is determined that the employer is late with a response or the response was not adequate the employer will be sent a determination that it will no longer be considered a party to any further proceedings relating to the claim and that it will be prohibited from being relieved of any benefit charges resulting from payments on the claim.  An employer who does not wish to contest the claim for benefits and chooses not to respond to a request for information will also be subject to an inadequate determination and the loss of rights to further proceedings on that specific claim as well as prohibition from relief of charges.