After short debate, the Missouri Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would redefine “misconduct” for which an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits.

Senate Bill 28, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, was passed on a unanimous vote by senators, after listening to discussion of instances in Missouri workplaces where employees were granted benefits after being fired for stealing from employers, taking illegal drugs at work and even public urination while on the job at a school.

The Missouri Chamber is a lead proponent of this legislation and has worked with the sponsor to advance this legislation on behalf of its members.

“This is about integrity of the fund,” said Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “Missouri employers solely fund our UI system, and it is a slap in the face when they have to turn around payout benefits in cases where an employee is clearly breaking company policy and in some cases breaking the law.”

Currently, misconduct includes a wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest and a disregard of standards of behavior of the employee. However, Missouri Chamber employer members are seeing a broad interpretation of that definition. The Department of Labor Projections for the Unemployment Trust Fund shows that $527 million has been borrowed and must be paid back and Missouri will continue to have a deficit balance until 2016, a debt that is compounded by abuses to the system.

“Liberal interpretation of the definition of misconduct will continue to allow cases like these to erode the system without this legislation,” King said. “This rases the costs on all employers who fund the system. We need to protect the system for the purpose it was intended.”