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LAS VEGAS—Southwest Airlines improved its success rate in disputing
unemployment claims by 23 percent for discharge cases by implementing a
system for managers that helps them record the story behind an
employee’s departure, according to Kevin Minchey, an attorney with the
airline. This translated into a savings of $400,000 in one year, he
Speaking at a concurrent session at the Society for Human Resource
Management 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition on June 30, 2015,
Minchey said that, in the past, managers often would recommend no
protest of unemployment compensation claims and would provide no
information about work separations.
Now, to ensure that benefits aren’t being paid when they shouldn’t
be, Southwest managers are encouraged to provide information on the
reasons for separations through an online interface.
Individuals can file for unemployment benefits when they resign, are
discharged, are laid off or work part time, noted Bob Austin, vice
president of unemployment compensation operations at Equifax Workforce
Solutions and a session co-presenter.
Sometimes employers say an employee quit for no reason, Austin
remarked, but there’s always a reason. Just providing a copy of
someone’s written resignation improves the chances of employers
successfully disputing an unemployment claim by 10 percent to 15
percent, he emphasized.
Before Southwest adopted its online interface for unemployment
claims, managers often would not respond when asked via e-mail why
someone left. Or they might say it was a voluntary quit and leave it at
Now, with the interface, managers are prompted to explain more
thoroughly why an employee left and they receive notes about urgent
claims and notices when there is a decision. “It gets managers more
excited about unemployment” when they can see how claims cases turn out,
If managers aren’t providing a lot of details about separations,
Minchey can see that and can encourage them to provide more information.
It’s estimated that $4.5 billion per year is paid erroneously in
unemployment compensation, Austin observed. He added that frequent
reasons for erroneous payouts include:
But managers’ failure to share reasons for work separations is a contributing factor as well.
Austin advised that, rather than accepting that a claimant quit
voluntarily and gave no reason, employers should ask managers questions
Analytics can help lower unemployment claims, too, Austin said. He
noted that employers can track different types of unemployment claims
(at Southwest, for example, claims involving attendance issues often are
filed) to help them better predict whether a challenge would be
successful and to keep an eye on developing trends.
Benchmarking a company’s success rate against the success rate
industrywide also is useful, Austin observed. A company may think it has
a healthy success rate until it compares its numbers against those of
Unemployment tax costs per employee are at $463 per year, 48 percent
higher than in 2008. That figure is not going to drop to pre-recession
levels, Austin said, so employers need to do what they can to keep
unemployment claims in check.
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