by Alissa C. Atkins, Esq.

Yesterday, the Georgia 2012 General Assembly convened at 10:00 a.m. Pre-filing of 2012 legislation began in November, although the only pre-filed bills concerning employment matters were two Senate bills which address requirements for unemployment benefits. One such bill, SB294, is known as the Dignity for the Unemployed Act, and would require volunteer service hours to secure unemployment benefits. The current version of the proposed bill requires at least 24 hours of volunteer service per week for a non-profit charitable organization after the first two weeks of eligibility for unemployment benefits.

With respect to the Workers’ Compensation Act, the advisory council to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation is expected to recommend legislation in the near future which includes a $25.00 increase in the maximum weekly income benefits cap. Despite the state of the economy, the advisory council has reviewed Georgia’s benefit rates, noting that they have not increased from $500.00 for TTD benefits or $334.00 for TPD benefits since July 1, 2007. Previously, rates were raised by $25.00 every two years since July 2001.

We anticipate that the legislative session will also involve challenges and proposed revisions to other bills. Although no new legislation has been proposed on the matter yet, we anticipate that the legislature may address the opinion in McCrae v. Arby’s concerning contacting doctors. Employers, insurers, and others have worked to develop a resolution proclaiming the right of employers to communicate with physicians in workers’ compensation cases.

We will continue to update you regarding the status of the current legislative session over the next few months, spanning the 40 day session.