Our latest unemployment rate in the Gulf Coast is 8.2% or about 234,000 people, with many receiving unemployment benefits. To replenish the Unemployment Compensation Fund and pay those unemployment checks, the Texas Workforce Commission increased the employer tax rates. So, in addition to the bad economy that caused you to lay off and struggle to stay in business, you’ve got the burden of higher unemployment taxes. You’re liable for charges on employees you lay off, but don’t pay for those employees you deservedly fire.
Want to win in an unemployment claim dispute? Remember these tips:
#1 IT’S IN THE MAIL
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) mails notices of unemployment claim filings and appeals to all parties. Make sure your address is up to date. You have 14 calendar days to file a written response. You can file by mail, fax, or online. Obtain documentation to prove you are timely, like a registered mail receipt, fax confirmation or computer printout. Responding late to unemployment notices practically guarantees you will lose.
#2 INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY
If you fire a person, the burden of proof is on you to show that the employee was guilty of work-related misconduct. The two best ways to establish misconduct are through documentation and witnesses with firsthand testimony about events leading to the termination. Documentation can include the company policy or handbook, written warnings, video surveillance, and signed confessions. Firing an employee for unsubstantiated reasons, suspicions, or attitudes usually means you pay.
Example of a losing testimony: That employee had a bad attitude.
Example of a winning testimony: That employee had a bad attitude toward our customers. We followed company policy, issued a verbal warning, and then issued a written warning that his job was in jeopardy at the next incident. We fired him at the next occurrence. Here are signed documents showing he received the company handbook explaining policies and one for each disciplinary action, including the termination.
#3 WE HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
TWC precedent says that a party’s sworn denial of misconduct carries more weight than hearsay evidence by the other party. A claimant is considered his own best witness. To win, provide witnesses with firsthand testimony to the misconduct.
Example of a losing testimony:
Employer: I have a notarized affidavit from my supervisor saying she saw this employee take company property from our premises without permission. We fired him.
Claimant: No, I didn’t take anything.
Example of a winning testimony:
Supervisor: I was the claimant’s supervisor. I saw him removing company property without my permission.
Claimant: I got permission from the other supervisor because you weren’t available.
Employer to the Hearing Officer: I have the other supervisor available to testify. She is going to testify that she did not give permission for this person to remove company property.
From here, the claimant either concedes or the supervisor is sworn in and testimony continues with a decision in the employer’s favor.
#4 THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK
“That did it, you’re out of here!” Many employees are fired after repeatedly violating company policies but without receiving any documented warnings. By letting your employees repeat work-related misconduct and not addressing it through a disciplinary process, you tacitly approve the misconduct. When someone finally gets on your last nerve and you send her packing, you are likely to finance the trip. Written documentation showing you have addressed the problems with the employee prior to showing her the door, including “job in jeopardy” warnings, could be the winning factor in your unemployment insurance case.
The more employees you have filing for unemployment insurance, the greater the odds you will have reason to dispute an unemployment claim in the future. Apply these tips and your future dispute outcomes will prove to be winning examples.
Cally Graves is an Industry Liaison between business, workforce, and education working with Workforce Solutions . She has 35 years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers in Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast region.