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Should I Fight An Unemployment Claim?

Should I Fight An Unemployment Claim?

If a former employee of yours files for unemployment, one factor that can affect whether they receive unemployment benefits is if you contest their claim. Should you contest it, then it will be up to your state’s employment department to decide if the employee has a right to unemployment benefits. To have the best chance of success, here’s how you can fight an employee’s unemployment claim.

Determine if the Employee Has a Valid Case

The first thing to do is figure out if the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits. This can save you quite a bit of time if you determine that they are eligible.

A couple situations are cut and dry. If the employee quit, then they aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation, and you should contest the claim. The only exception is if the employee quit for good cause, meaning they left for something that would have caused any reasonable person to quit. For example, if the employee was being harassed by coworkers, that would constitute good cause. If you laid the employee off, then they will be eligible, so you’d be wasting your time to try and contest it.

Where it gets tricky is if you fired the employee. When an employee is simply a poor fit for the position, they are eligible for unemployment benefits. If you hired an employee and, despite your best attempts at training them, they just couldn’t handle the job, they will likely be found eligible for unemployment.

If you fired the employee because of misconduct, they typically would not be eligible for unemployment benefits, but this depends on the severity of the misconduct. Employment departments see certain offenses as minor, and if an employee was fired for these minor offenses, they can still be eligible for unemployment. For example, being late to work, even if it happens multiple times, is seen as a minor offense.

What else is minor enough that an employee will still be eligible for unemployment? Errors in judgement, working too slowly, not getting along with coworkers or customers, or having personality problems are all seen as minor or unintentional offenses, which means that the employee can still get unemployment.

So, if those are the minor offenses, what would qualify as a major offense? Major offenses include anything that an employee does that can have a substantial negative effect on the company. This may include harassing coworkers or customers, revealing confidential company information, frequently missing work, lying to supervisors, or showing up to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Keep in mind that when it comes to misconduct, it will come down to the interpretation of the employment department. All you can do is use your best judgement in deciding whether to contest the claim.

Gather Your Evidence

Before you contest a claim, you need to make sure that you have enough evidence to do so. This is why it’s important to include notes on any issues in an employee’s file. When you contest a claim, you can support your points about the employee’s misconduct by providing information on all times that the employee exhibited misconduct, how you handled the situation, and by demonstrating that issues continued to occur.

Decide If It’s Worth It

Contesting an unemployment claim costs you time and money. When you contest a claim, there’s also a higher chance that the employee chooses to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, which could be another headache for your business. The risk of fighting a claim means that you need to decide if it’s even worth it to do so.

The primary reason to contest an unemployment claim is to avoid an increase in your company’s unemployment insurance rates. One factor in the amount your company pays for unemployment insurance is the number of successful unemployment claims against your company, so you can save money if you successfully contest a claim.

You may also want to contest a claim if you suspect that the employee is going to sue your company for wrongful termination. During the process of contesting the unemployment claim, you can get an idea of what evidence the employee plans to use against you.

Fighting the Claim

If you decide to go through with contesting the unemployment claim, then the procedure to do so will vary from state to state. It’s standard for you to submit your company’s response to the employment department. The employment department will then assign an investigator to look at the statements submitted by both you and the former employee. If the investigator wants to get further information, they may interview you and/or the former employee. Once the investigator reaches a decision, they will notify both parties, typically by mail.

Regardless of the result, the party who didn’t win can request an appeal hearing. In an appeals hearing, both sides can bring witnesses and evidence to support their case, along with legal representatives, if they choose. At the end of the hearing, the appeals board will make a decision. These hearings can take multiple days.

Final Thoughts

Deciding if you should fight a former employee’s unemployment claim can be a difficult decision, especially when it’s a judgement call regarding whether the employee’s misconduct is significant enough to warrant the termination. The best thing to do is have a process ready for handling these situations, including assessing the termination, pulling together your evidence, and figuring out if it’s worth your company’s time to contest the claim. If you go through with fighting the claim, make sure you have your evidence ready, as that will be the most important factor in winning the case.