As a member of the Labor Commission, I’ve noticed that employers are losing many unemployment claims that they should win, likely because some employers simply do not understand the unemployment system. Because employers pay for unemployment insurance, education about the issue is important.
Picking your fights
You can’t contest every claim, so choose your battles wisely.
Fight claims if you can prove that the claimant: quit without good cause (attributable to the work or the employer), was fired for misconduct connected to the work, refused work without good cause, or was unable to work because of personal illness, going to school, or other reasons.
Protesting a claim
Employers have 10 calendar days from the date shown on a claim sent by the DES. Keep a copy of the protest and the date it was returned to the DES. It may be faxed or mailed, but if it is mailed, it must be postmarked no later than the 10th day.
Employers have 30 calendar days to appeal a deputy determination and 30 calendar days to appeal a referee’s decision to the Labor Commission.
If the claimant was discharged for attendance, for example, send in a copy of your attendance policy, documentation showing that the claimant knew about the policy, dates of absences and reasons for absences, record of compliance or noncompliance with your call-in policy, and any counseling sessions you had with the claimant. It is important to have a precise and thorough attendance policy that you clearly explain to employees.
Make sure that when you protest a claim, you have thoroughly documented the event that caused the separation of employment. Have the employee sign the document, or record the names of witnesses if the employee refuses to sign.
It is usually better to inform employees of problems and give them an opportunity to improve. Often, they do not realize that they are doing something wrong.
Appealing the decision
When a deputy awards benefits to a claimant, you have the right to appeal if you file a timely protest. A telephone hearing will then be scheduled. Provide facts, and have reliable firsthand witnesses.
For example, a claimant’s supervisor who had firsthand testimony of the events and why the claimant is no longer employed would be a strong witness.
Have key information such as date of hire, rate of pay, full- or part-time employment, days and hours worked, name of supervisor, position, last day worked, date of discharge, or when the employee quit. If the employee was discharged, explain why, by whom, and how. If the employee quit, explain their reason why.
While the claimant is testifying, listen carefully and note any discrepancies you hear. Later, you will have an opportunity to question the claimant or provide information to the referee. Never argue with the claimant or the referee.
Clearly communicate your drug policy. When an employee violates the drug or alcohol policy, document how, which could involve the claimant’s admission via testimony or your observations of his or her impairment. Have proof of the reliability and accuracy of your collection process and positive test results.
You may not win every case, but the better prepared you are with good documentation and firsthand witnesses, the more likely you are to win most disputes.