JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed two unemployment bills, saying Tuesday that legislation broadening what amounts to misconduct for jobless benefits would cover activities occurring outside the workplace and work hours.
The Democratic governor also said the bills could put Missouri at odds with federal law by permitting consideration of actions outside the job.
Unemployment benefits can be denied for those who lose jobs because of misconduct. Misconduct currently includes "wanton or willful disregard" of an employer's interest, a deliberate violation of an employer's rules and a disregard of standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect.
Under the bills vetoed by Nixon, misconduct would include when workers knowingly disregard their employers' interests, violate a no-call and no-show policy or break a company rule unless it can be demonstrated the rule is unlawful or that the employee could not reasonably have known about the rule.
Nixon in his veto message pointed to several examples of situations in which unemployment benefits could be denied under the legislation. One example was a mother who takes her daughter to the emergency room but forgets to call her employer and is fired for violating the company's no-call, no-show policy. The woman also could be denied jobless benefits, the governor said.
Supporters of the legislation said it would help protect the integrity of the unemployment system. They said it also could have helped the state begin paying down the state's debt on unemployment insurance.
Associated Industries of Missouri and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed disappointment with the veto.
Dan Mehan, the president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said the examples cited by Nixon are "ludicrous and make no sense."
"Employers have cited cases where unemployment benefits are being paid to employees fired for doing drugs on the job and stealing from their employer among other infractions," Mehan said. "There is no reason why this common-sense legislation should have been vetoed."
In addition to broadening the definition of misconduct, one vetoed bill also sought to comply with recent federal requirements created when President Barack Obama signed the Trade Extension Act of 2011. The federal mandate portion would have counted a newly hired employee as someone who has not previously worked for the business or who has been separated for at least 60 consecutive days. It also would have required that a 15 percent penalty for wrongly received benefits be deposited in Missouri's unemployment compensation fund.
State officials reported in a financial analysis of the legislation that Missouri levies a penalty of 25 percent for the first offense and 100 percent for subsequent instances. The vetoed legislation would have redirected a portion of the penalties to comply with the federal requirement.
It also would have prohibited removal of charges from an employer's account if a payment was made erroneously and it is determined the business failed to respond adequately or in a timely manner and has a pattern of doing that.
Missouri lawmakers approved one of the vetoed bills 140-18 in the House and 21-7 in the Senate. The other passed by a vote of 98-57 in the House and 32-2 in the Senate. Overriding Nixon's veto would require a two-thirds majority, 23 votes in the Senate and 109 votes in the House. Lawmakers meet at the state Capitol in September to decide whether to attempt veto overrides.