Unemployment Insurance Appeals
In most states, if an employee loses her job or is laid off from work due to no fault of her own, she is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits while she looks for another job. Her unemployment wages are usually based on how much money she made during the past year, and other criteria may apply as well. The weekly pay will be substantially less than her working wages, but the benefits are a big financial help to the unemployed. Unemployment compensation is a temporary solution for employees who have been in the workforce long enough to qualify for benefits.
A layoff or job elimination is always qualifying criteria for benefits, but the employee may have to have worked for a specific period of time in the state to be eligible. With each claim, there will be underlying circumstances that have to be considered before a decision is made. Neither the employer nor the employee can determine what the outcome of a claim will be. In some cases, a voluntary resignation due to relocation after a spouse receives a job offer out of town may be a qualifying event. Whether or not the spouse is the primary breadwinner in the family may affect the claim.
If a new employee has made every effort to perform a job and is unable to succeed, she may be eligible. Sometimes a person is simply not a good match for a job and it is hard to determine this until she actually starts working. It's an unfortunate event that is not anyone's fault, and for this reason she may be eligible. As always, there are specific circumstances that will determine if this is the case.
Unemployment compensation is paid for by employers through FUTA taxes as explained in Chapter 6. These taxes are based on the number of claims paid out against, or on behalf of, an employer. Therefore, one employer may have higher unemployment compensation expenses than another, and the charges fluctuate each year based on the number of active claims.
Another reason a person may be eligible for unemployment compensation is if a company unfairly terminates her employment. If she was not given proper training to perform her job or a fair chance to improve the issue that led to her termination, she may receive benefits after being released. This is why it's important to use the employee discipline tools highlighted in Chapter 15 as a means to resolve performance and behavior issues rather than proceed to termination too quickly.
Even if an employee is released from employment for good cause, the timing of the separation may determine workers' compensation eligibility. For example, if an employee is terminated for excessive absenteeism a week after her last unexcused absence, the fact that she was allowed to continue working after the incident sends the message that the behavior can be tolerated. If you delay releasing an employee from duty until a time when it is convenient for the company (after a deadline has been met or when someone returns from vacation), the result may be an increase in your unemployment insurance expenses once they start collecting benefits.
Lastly, if an employee quits her job for good reason, such as due to a hostile work environment or sexual harassment, the employer may pay the price. Being “run out” of a company may be seen as a valid reason to leave and she may be eligible for unemployment.
There are situations when a person is unlikely to be awarded benefits. In most cases, an employee who quits a job without good cause will be ineligible. What is considered without good cause is up to the unemployment board. Quitting a job because the work is boring is an example of what may be seen as ineligibility for unemployment benefits.
You can try to guess the outcome of an employee's unemployment claim, but you will never know for sure until a determination has been made. Don't be too confident that a claim will be denied and slack off in your efforts to protest the claim. The result may be a surprise that will increase your FUTA taxes.
If an employee is terminated from employment for insubordination or a violation of company policy, she will be unlikely to qualify for benefits, but this is not always the case. Each situation will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The circumstances and steps leading up to the termination will be a key factor in a final decision.
An employee may apply for unemployment benefits even if she is unlikely to qualify. In all cases, the employee files a claim and the employer is given the opportunity to respond to the claim with the company's side of the story. Since employers pay for unemployment benefits, most are quick to request a denial of benefits to former employees who they feel should not receive compensation. The deadline to respond is relatively short, so if you are going to request a denial of benefits, do it as soon as you receive notice of the claim.
You need to respond to a claim for unemployment benefits only if you protest the charges to your company. There may be times when you feel it is fair for the former employee to receive benefits, such as in the case of an employee who experienced a hardship and had to resign or was unable to pass the introductory period.
If you protest an unemployment claim, be prepared to give a detailed, thorough explanation of the events that led to the separation, including the final incident. For instance, if an employee was released after her third no-call/no-show, show proof that the employee was aware that she needed to call her supervisor if she was unable to report to work. This could be by means of a signature of receipt for the employee handbook that states absences must be reported. Make a copy of the documentation that shows the employee was counseled the first time it happened, as well as a written warning that may have been issued after the second occurrence. If the written warning stated that another no-call/no-show may result in termination, and it happened again, you have your proof that you did everything possible to communicate the policy to the employee and correct the problem. This is the criteria for a fair and reasonable employment termination.
If a former employee's claim is denied, she has the right to an appeal in most states. If this happens, you will receive a notice to attend an appeal hearing. If the employee was released for good cause, you should attend the hearing and fight the appeal. If you do not show up, the employee wins on default.