When and How to Protest an Unemployment Claim.
American workers were awarded 29.4 billion dollars in unemployment claims in 2018. While a substantial percentage of these claims were likely warranted, it is safe to assume that some claims went to recipients who did not deserve them. As an employer, do you know how to manage unemployment claims? Do you know when it’s smart to protest a claim and how to do so?
Learn what qualifies an employee for unemployment benefits, tips for preventing claims in the first place, and how to protest one should it become necessary.
Unemployment qualifications and rules vary from state to state. However, no matter the location of your business, there is one common thread. To qualify for benefits, an employee must be unemployed through no faults of their own.
In some scenarios, however, the answer isn’t crystal clear. Finding the answer starts with how the end of a worker’s employment is labeled.
- Laid-off : Employees who are laid off or let go due to a reduction in work are generally eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Fired : At first, it may seem fired employees should never qualify for unemployment benefits. Though in some cases, they can still claim benefits. Examples include being terminated due to cutbacks or for minor or unintentional infractions that caused their termination. However, if an employee terminates for willful misconduct, they typically will not qualify for unemployment benefits.
- Quit: An employee who willfully leaves their position for a new opportunity or because they’re unsatisfied with their job is not typically eligible for unemployment. One who leaves for what’s known as a good cause (including harassment, unsafe work conditions, or serious illness), will likely qualify.
Generally, you should not protest a claim from an employee who was laid off. However, when it comes to claims filed by fired employees or those who quit, you’ll have to examine each situation individually.
How to Manage Unemployment Claims
Protesting an unemployment claim starts before the worker’s first day on the job and continues until your state’s unemployment department has made a final decision.
Here are some helpful tips for preventing and, if necessary, protesting an unemployment claim.
Hire the best talent
One way to avoid unemployment claims from hitting your desk in the first place is only to hire workers that:
- You absolutely need
- Are qualified for the position
Employees may qualify for unemployment benefits when terminated because they’re not a good fit for their position, assuming they meet the minimum employment qualifications and provided their best work.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to fill a position quickly, remember it’s smarter and often less costly to take your time and hire only the best applicant.
Provide new hires with an employee handbook
Do you have an employee handbook? An employee handbook promotes several benefits but most importantly, it informs current and new hires about workplace standards, policies, and disciplinary procedures. Anytime you distribute an updated handbook or a handbook to a new employee, remember to have them sign a Handbook Acknowledgment Form. This will serve as documentation that you distributed the handbook and allowed the employee to ask questions. With documented information in a handbook, fired employees can’t claim ignorance to protocol as a defense, which is enough to warrant unemployment benefits in some situations.
If you’re currently operating without a handbook, an employment contract or offer letter can help until you’re able to produce one.
Document promptly and precisely
Document everything throughout an employee’s time with your company, from employment applications to dismissal. This could include, but certainly isn’t limited to, the following:
- Initial application
- Signed contract or offer letter
- Handbook Acknowledgment Form upon hire and after revisions
- Attendance records
- Disciplinary measures and performance counseling
- Injuries on the job
- Request for a reduction in working hours or a change in job description
- Resignation letter
- Any other event or incident related to termination or change of employment status
Follow protocol when protesting a claim
Remember, it’s not up to you whether a former employee is eligible for unemployment benefits. It’s up to your state’s unemployment office. Look into your state’s process and protocols for disputing unemployment claims to understand your rights and those of the employee.
This most likely includes deadlines for filing paperwork, what constitutes as evidence, and whom you can have speak at a hearing. If you’re uncertain about the process, hire professional help. Making a mistake could prove fatal to your case, even if you think you’re in the right.
As an employer, you always have the option of protesting an employee’s application for unemployment benefits. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the right option in every scenario.
Knowing how to manage an unemployment claim is a crucial skill for all business owners to protect resources and reputations. Once you understand what warrants unemployment benefits, you’ll be better prepared to protest claims that don’t add up.