Contesting Unemployment Claims

-Know the ins and outs of appealing

Despite the common belief that employees pay for unemployment taxes while employed, it is in fact the employer who shoulders this financial responsibility. That means that the monetary onus is on the employer when an unemployment claim is granted. So what’s the best action to take when a former employee wrongfully files for unemployment benefits? It all begins with being informed of your rights and responsibilities as an employer.

Let’s start with the reason for dismissal. If the employee in question has been fired for misconduct, performance issues, theft or other egregious acts, you are right to contest their claim. However, if you let an employee go due to downsizing or because they just weren’t right for the position, it’s best to let the claim go through without a fight.

If you feel you’re in the right, and you want to move forward with the hearing and appeals process, you’re going to need proof. Follow these three tips for a smoother process:

  • Don’t count on the employee to cooperate. They’ve already filed a false claim, and most likely have personal grievances about their former manager and company. The only way to combat their claims is with irrefutable evidence.
  • Collect all relevant documentation. If poor behavior, performance issues or other cumulative issues preceded the dismissal, there should be documentation of any communication between management and the employee in question. Preferably, signed by both the employer and employee to acknowledge that such communications occurred and were understood. Any documentation to be used for the appeal must have been created before the dismissal date.
  • Gather witnesses. When employees are dismissed suddenly, due to one-time transgressions like theft or violence, you’ll need to rely on eyewitnesses rather than a paper trail. Management should interview these witnesses, and the conversation and recollection of events documented and signed by both. This documentation should happen as soon after the employee termination as possible, to allow for accuracy of recall and to have signed proof in place.

1. What do you need to know for your unemployment hearing?

  • Know your state policies. Although the majority of unemployment hearings are conducted via phone, the laws and practices are different according to state. Be sure you have a solid grasp on how your specific state deals with unemployment claims and appeals before you move forward with the process.

2. Know your hearing protocol. If you have been scheduled for a hearing, it’s good to have these general rules of thumb in mind during the call:

  • Don’t speak to the employee directly. It’s best to only interact with the appeal officer during the hearing. Answer all questions clearly and honestly. Don’t bring emotion into it. Answer only what is asked, and only with information germane to the case.
  • Have your records organized and ready. Since written and signed documentation is your biggest advantage in an unemployment hearing, be sure to have all of yours with you, organized and easily accessible. When referring to the documents, do not paraphrase the content; instead, read the exact verbiage for absolute accuracy of statement.
  • Pick your battles wisely. Once you have a full comprehension of your state’s unemployment laws, take a closer look at your case. If you don’t have the evidence or reasoning needed to win an appeal, you’re probably wasting your time—and possibly increasing your financial burden.
  • The decision is final. The unemployment has complete say in the final ruling, and both parties need to be at peace with the decision. If your former employee’s claim is accepted and you still feel strongly about the case, you can appeal the decision. Keep all of your documentation and other proof handy; you’ll need it moving forward.

It’s best practice to be prepared for the worst outcome when it comes to employee termination. The potential of a claim against your company for wrongful termination is good reason to practice smart tactics around documentation.

No matter how friendly your relationship is with team members, any performance issues or other concerns addressed with employees need to be clearly explained, reiterated on paper and signed by all parties. When an employee is let go, it’s a smart idea to request that a liability release is signed, which acknowledges the fairness of termination and promises no retaliation. While it technically can’t prevent a former employee from suing your business, it can provide a strong case for the employer.

Ending an employee-company relationship is never pleasant for either side. But instituting smart and proactive practices can save your business a lot of headache and financial woe down the line.

If you want a better way to maintain employee performance documentation and a less stressful way to handle job terminations, consider partnering with a PEO . Connect with PathGoal and we’ll set up a no-obligation meeting to discuss how a PEO can CYA.