The Top 3 Unemployment Eligibility Myths

There are many factors that dictate whether a former employee will receive unemployment benefits. Often, employers are surprised to learn that a termination that seemed clearly justified resulted in unemployment benefits paid. In this article we discuss the top three unemployment eligibility myths.

Lack of Attendance

Employers often think that unemployment benefits will be denied if the employee misses too much work and exceeds the point threshold of the employer’s point-based attendance policy. This isn’t always the case.

The truth is that eligibility for unemployment benefits is determined by the final incident leading to the separation. Former employees may qualify for unemployment benefits if they are unemployed through no fault of their own.

In many point-based attendance policies, points are accumulated regardless of the reason for the absences. If employees are sick or miss work for any reason, they often will receive points that accumulate over a period of time. Employees are then terminated once they exceed the number of points allowed by the policy.

If the final incident that caused the point threshold to be met was a result of an accident, illness, or another reason beyond their control, it’s likely that unemployment benefits will be granted regardless of the reasons for the prior absences.

Job Performance

Employers often believe that employees who are terminated for job performance should be ineligible for unemployment benefits. However, burden of proof rests on the employer.

Eligibility for unemployment benefits is determined by proof of willful misconduct. To show misconduct in job performance, the employer must prove that the claimant was capable of performing the job and had successfully performed the duties of the job in the past.

Documentation must be presented that proves the employee was consciously taking shortcuts or making mistakes that contributed to the unsatisfactory work performance. Additionally, the employer must notify the employee of the unsatisfactory performance and provide training and opportunities to improve.

As a general rule, employees terminated for unsatisfactory job performance typically receive unemployment benefits.  If an employee fails to perform to the employer’s standards, it’s presumably because of the employee’s inexperience, incompetence or inability to perform the duties of the position, or because of honest mistakes.  None of these are considered to be “willful misconduct.”

Voluntary Resignation

It seems clear that employees who voluntary resign should be denied unemployment benefit. However, there are multiple reasons why they may receive benefits.

Eligibility for unemployment benefits is determined by the circumstances surrounding the separation. There are numerous circumstances in which employees may be considered eligible.  Here are a few:

  • Personal illness or to care for an ill family member and does not qualify for leave
  • Spousal relocation
  • To escape domestic abuse
  • Certain changes by the employer such as modification of the original hiring agreement, reduction in hours, location, and pay
  • Conflict in the work environment where the employer was aware yet made no effort to resolve the issue given a fair amount of time

Unemployment Impact

Your state’s unemployment insurance department has the final authority to grant a former employee unemployment benefits. A successful unemployment benefit claim may impact your company’s rates and cost you money that you could’ve avoided with proper systems, documentation, and processes. We can help. Contact us today, and we’ll share how we’ve helped organizations just like yours.