On December 31, 2018 Massachusetts enacted and the Governor signed into law legislation that would provide up to 26 weeks after regular unemployment compensation and other extended benefit and federal unemployment benefits are exhausted. The extension would be up to 26 weeks or for the duration of the lockout, whichever is shorter.
The actual language provides:
(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a), the total benefits of an individual eligible to receive benefits due to an employer’s lockout, pursuant to subsection (b) of section 25, shall be extended beyond the benefit amount authorized in subsection (a) for an additional 26 times the individual’s benefit rate, or until the lockout is concluded, whichever is shorter; provided, however, that the additional benefits shall be paid to the individual only if that individual has exhausted all rights to regular and extended benefits under this chapter and has no rights to benefits or compensation under this chapter or any other state unemployment compensation law or under federal law; and provided further, that any benefit paid to an individual under this subsection shall be charged in accordance with paragraph (3) of subsection (d) of section 14.
The provision to create the state extension was modeled after a Minnesota provision that provides additional weeks of benefits for locked out employees.
Because Massachusetts is a state that charges unemployment compensation benefits to employers in inverse chronological order, it is likely that the additional payments will be charged to the employer involved in the lockout. However, there could be some additional cost for employers who are also base period employers for the locked out workers.
We understand that the new law is not retroactive and its application to the current lockout will likely be limited to make payment for one week. However, the new statute providing extended benefits in lockout cases will increase to some degree the cost of unemployment compensation for employers and increase benefits to locked workers when there are long term lock outs in the future.
The legislation was introduced in response to an extended labor dispute/lockout primarily involving gas and electric utilities. Initial efforts to craft legislation to address only certain employers and locked out workers ran into difficulty with federal requirements. Changes in the final version now means that the additional weeks provisions will apply to all employers in the state when there is a lockout.
Here is a link to the statute: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2018/Chapter338