In response to the current labor shortage, THLA hosted a virtual meeting with the Texas Work Force Commission on June 3, 2021 to discuss strategies to attract more workers to our industry. The meeting included a diverse group of representatives from the hotel industry who could explain the different issues we are facing based on brand, size, geographic location, and more. In this round table, we discussed industry issues and resources:
- The tools TWC recommends for finding new employees;
- Updates from TWC on Federal and State programs impacting labor;
- The best mechanisms for contesting employees who won’t return to work.
To watch this round table discussion, please click the button below.
Commissioner Aaron Demerson and his team explained that any hotel owner or operator can reach out to him and his team for any employer-employee question or issue via email or telephone:
Fraud and handling applicants who refuse work
TWC has a multitude of resources available on their website which assist with the issues our industry is facing like, fraud claims, work refusal issues, and more.
Elsa Ramos, a TWC attorney, explained that employers have reached out to TWC during the pandemic who were having issues with re-calling employees back to work, or having cases where individuals were just not responding to the call back requests by employers. As such, TWC created a helpful “work refusal reporting form.” This form can be used to report employees who are refusing to come back to work or who you cannot get a hold of. This form is available here: https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/EBS_REF/ewrd/employeeWorkRefusalDoc.
By submitting this form, TWC can investigate employees who the employer suspects of not returning to work and continuing to claim unemployment benefits. To use this form, the employer must have the claimant’s full name and last four digits of the claimant’s social security number. Similarly, if an employer has questions regarding any appeals, the employer should include the appeal/case number and the wage claim number, if available. TWC also stressed the importance of providing documentation and recommended having offer/re-hire letters placed in writing and sent via email, text and/or regular mail.
Employers should also be sure to give the specifics about the job that was offered and refused, and mention anything the job candidate mentioned regarding the reason for not accepting the job offer. If the employer has documentation (email, text, etc.) from the applicant, the employer should submit that documentation along with the report.
Employers’ unemployment insurance tax rates
During the roundtable meeting, hotel industry stakeholders and TWC discussed the effects of House Bill 7 which passed the Legislature this session. This bill dealt with the computation of the “replenishment ratio” specifically, this bill ensures that employers’ unemployment tax accounts are not assessed for unemployment benefit claims caused by the pandemic.
HB 7 is an important piece of legislation, because it ensures employers are not taxed at higher unemployment tax rates due to unemployment benefit claims caused by emergencies such as the pandemic. This bill will ensure hotels do not face higher UI rates for layoffs caused by the pandemic.
Resources for recruiting applicants
TWC noted that there are 28 local workforce development boards across the State. Each of these local workforce boards are spread out geographically to cover every city in Texas. Local workforce solution board information is available here: https://www.twc.texas.gov/partners/workforce-development-boards-websites.
Pandemic safety concerns and vaccinating employees
TWC’s attorneys provided information regarding potential employer liability and resources for employees who become ill at work because of job duties or proximity to customers, or co-workers. TWC’s legal staff confirmed that generally workers compensation should cover these types of illnesses as an “occupational illness.” However, customers who say they have an illness because of a staff member at a hotel would generally be covered by your liability insurance policy as a company. Thus, this gives you as the employer the legal basis to ask your employees to wear facial covers, to get vaccinated, and maintain social distancing while recognizing that there is an exception for medical reasons or religious reasons.
Most importantly, now that we starting to reach a “post pandemic” era and travel has been increasing, our industry representatives asked whether an employer can require all employees become vaccinated in order to continue work?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated their guidelines and clarified that it is legal to provide incentives to employees to become vaccinated. Additionally, it is lawful to make vaccinations mandatory, provided the employer takes “reasonable accommodations” into account for individuals with medical disabilities or religious objections. To view some of these “reasonable accommodations” measures or vaccination protocols you can go to the EECO.gov – Covid page – and go down to K.6 and K.12 for appropriate guidance: https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws.
Unemployment claim base-periods
A question arose as to the maximum length of time in which a former employee may can claim for unemployment? To answer this TWC pointed to a real-life example:
An employee worked for the hotel for a short time before quitting working at the hotel to work somewhere else. The former employee was then fired by her subsequent employer, and the former employee is now claiming unemployment benefits. The hotel received notice indicating the former employee is making a UI claim, and the hotel is listed as a past employer on the claim. Is the hotel liable for this unemployment claim?
TWC’s “look back” period is 4 calendar quarters from when the employee filed his or her claim. Meaning, the hotel employer may get notice that an employee claimed against the hotel business because the employee’s employment with the hotel is in the “look back” period. However, this does not necessarily mean the hotel will be charged with the unemployment benefit claim.
The hotel must respond to the TWC notice, and 1) explain the time period in which the employee was employed by the hotel, and 2) why he or she stopped working at the hotel company. In this instance, the hotel company will state the former employee quit. Explaining the details of employment will greatly lower the chances the hotel company will be charged for a past employee. Again, documentation is key when dealing with TWC.
Recalling Employees to work
TWC reaffirmed that when dealing with recalling employees, it is important to report a job offer was made (with documentation) in writing. Additionally, employers should always respond to any TWC notices received, and provide proof of a written job offer to the TWC.
Additional TWC Resources
TWC created the Texas Guidebook for Employers which is free for all Texas employers. This online tool covers areas like, hiring issues, work separating, employment law – related websites and more. To access this resource, visit: https://twc.texas.gov/news/efte/tocmain2.html.