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In the November 2004 issue of HR Magazine, we asked readers to share the challenges they faced dealing with unemployment insurance claims. Here are a selection of some of the responses we received
We had a member service representative (teller) accuse a member of lying to obtain an additional $20. The member was a high school teacher. Within two days after the incident, the teller wrote a letter on the credit union's letterhead to the School Board outlining her accusation against the member saying the member's actions indicates she should not be teaching. After the letter was mailed, the $20 was located. It was missing due to the telle''s error. The teller was terminated when the member brought the letter to management's attention. The Employment Development Department awarded the former employee unemployment benefits. We appealed. The hearing officer wrote in his opinion he would have fired the teller for misconduct as well but her actions failed to meet to the Department's definition of misconduct.
Our company discharged a Supervisor for poor performance. We had gone through the progressive steps and had the documentation in order. With his last performance issue, we were ready for the termination. I can say with confidence, this was a closed case discharge. Approximately, three weeks later, we were scheduled for a phone hearing for UI. As the "UI judge" started the conversation and was verifying those on the conference call, he said the wife of our former employee was going to testify for her husband because he was unable to be on the call! I made a comment about the legitimacy of her testimony, but the judge said he would allow her to take the place of her husband in the hearing. We struggled through the call and the wife made several unrelated comments about her husband being terminated, and the judge allowed the statements.
We terminated an employee after reports that he had a gun and was showing it to coworkers. Local police were present at the termination and retrieved the gun later in the employee's car...At the UI hearing, the ALJ allowed the claimant to state four different versions of the incident ranging from, "I never had a gun" to "I found a gun & was going to bring it to the DA's office."... I could not include the employees who reported this because they have orders of protection against this employee. Even though all of this is a matter of police record, the ALJ decided in his favor. We are appealing the decision.
In my 40 years in Human Resources, I have not experienced a problem dealing with unemployment claims. The best solution is "documentation, documentation" that can be presented as evidence, e.g., absenteeism. First step is a verbal corrective action, second step is a written warning, third step is a suspension, and fourth is termination, all this backed up with copies of the employee's absentee records. Time consuming, but one that pays off. Say what you will do, and do what you say.
About a month after I stated administering the unemployment claims I received two contradictory decisions regarding the same claim. I called the unemployment office to get clarification. My first several calls went unanswered. I finally got a hold of the case manager for this particular claim. I asked her to clarify the decision and told her I had received two decisions with different answers. Little did I know at the time that it was based on 2 different issues. I read parts of the letters to the representative who proceeded to tell me I was wrong and did not know what I was talking about. I tried to explain that I was reading from a letter signed by her. She cursed me out and hung up. Obviously I had not received an answer to my question so I called back. She hung up on me again as soon as I said my name. The third time I asked for her manager and she refused to give me a name. So I called the main number and asked for the manager. To make a long story short I must have been just one of many who complained because a few days later I received a threatening voicemail from the case worker yelling at me and telling me it was my fault she got fired and she knew where I worked.
We had an individual who kept falling asleep on the job. We were leary of terminating him (worked in California), until finally one day we caught him with his hat pulled over his eyes. We figured this was enough to prove that he "intentionally" fell asleep. Well, it wasn't, and we fought this one until the end. He was granted the benefits.
We had a case where a supervisor...had an "anger management" problem and the employees were afraid when he would go into his tirades -- yelling, swearing, getting "out-of-control."...The UC referee ruled in his favor because the straw that broke the camel's back was "justified" -- the employee.s paycheck was incorrect, even though he had had outbreaks time and time again and had been warned and written up for this behavior...
In the state of PA it seems that the employer rarely wins....This whole area is in need of reform.
Our UI agency seems to run like clockwork. I always respond to their initial requests for explanation of termination AND also attach the support documentation. I always get an initial ruling in our favor because we can demonstrate the individual violated a work rule. When the claimant appeals, I always use an Advocate and again 99% of the time win the appeal.
Our appeal hearings are run very efficiently. They always start on time, there is no wasted time and yet both sides have adequate opportunity to present their case. Decisions are received within 5-8 business days.
One problem we have had with the UI system, is that they do not verify the listed employer address that the claimant writes on their form. The form is then sent to the incorrent address, not allowing the employer to even know the claim was filed. In California, employers only have a 10-day window to respond before the checks go out. Since fraudulent claims are putting the wrong address down for employers, they are receiving their checks before employers even know. A simple system of checking the addresses (which they have on file), or having an on-line system where employers can systematically check their status, would alleviate hundreds and thousands of fraudulent payments.
Our plant did have a consistent attendance policy, and we fired a fair number of people for poor attendance. We always had clear documentation of our claims. When a person fired for poor attendance tried to file for unemployment, we would challenge it based on the person's documented record for poor attendance. In NC, if a person was found to have been fired for a documented poor attendance record (through progressive written warnings), their unemployment benefit was reduced by up to 12 weeks, or in some cases could be denied altogether. We successfully challenged several claims on this basis, and did not lose a single one. One claim was appealed by the employee (fired for a long record of poor attendance) all the way to the director of unemployment services. We had over 10 written warnings that the employee had received for attendance violations while at the company. The company won the claim at an administrative hearing....
Our plant was relatively small, so we did not receive hundreds of claims. It does take a lot of administrative time to respond to these claims, and resources have to be committed to challenging unemployment claims. You will not win every claim, but find out the nuances of your state's unemployment system, and leverage what you find to your advantage. Also know what battles you will not win and do not spin your wheels responding to those.
I had an employee once who ended up in jail. A month after we terminated him due to no-call, no-show, we found out he was in jail. Three months after that, he was released and then he filed a UI claim against us. I disputed the claim. He was denied. Two months later, he was granted an appeal hearing. I showed up to the hearing and he did not. The case was dissmissed....I thought that was the end of it, but then two months later, I receive another appeal notice in the mail.... So again, I gathered all my documentation, drive the 30 minutes down to the UI appeal office, and wait. I had to wait another 45 minutes. The guy didn't show a second time. By this time I was really mad. A total of two hours out of my day for nothing.
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