JEFFERSON CITY — People fired for sleeping on the job and missing work could have a harder time getting unemployment benefits under a bill given first-round approval Wednesday by the Missouri Senate.
The bill would expand the definition of "misconduct," which could keep fired employees from receiving benefits after they leave a company. Missouri currently denies unemployment compensation for job misbehavior, but the measure's sponsor said the law still lets people qualify who shouldn't.
Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said some people in his district have gotten benefits even though they were fired after not showing up to work or using profanity on the job.
His measure would bar unemployment benefits from individuals who "knowingly" disregarded an employer's rules, were negligent or careless on the job and those who are chronically absent or late. Current law uses the standard of "willful" disregard of an employer's rules as the means to deny unemployment compensation.
But Republican senators argued the current standard is not tough enough.
"It has become so bad in Missouri, (businesses) don't even fight the claims anymore," said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah.
Not everyone was as optimistic about the definition change. Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said the bill could allow more people to get fired and not solve the underlying problems of unemployment benefits.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce released a statement after the bill passed and said the measure would help pay down the state's $527 million debt on unemployment insurance by reducing "abuses to the system."
Kraus' bill needs one more affirmative vote in the Senate before moving to the House.