Successfully handling an unemployment insurance claim is often looked at as a business owner’s rite of passage. Employers frequently contact our Employer Service’s Central Office looking for guidance before they terminate an employee or after they’ve received the claim notice. Will accepting my employee’s resignation result in me having to pay unemployment benefits? I’ve gotten a claim notice in the mail, what do I do now? The UI Claim’s process can be intimidating and, depending on whom you ask, downright confusing. Below is a look at what to do and not to do before and after a claim arises.
Before a Claim Arises
If a bit of due diligence is used prior to a claim it will go a long way in creating calmer seas. It is wise to consider each of these depending upon the situation.
- If an employee is about to be fired, go through a termination checklist; at the very least, ensure that the employee has been given the benefit of whatever termination procedures are outlined in the company policies and in whatever warnings they may have received.
- If an employee is quitting, do not have the person sign a boilerplate resignation form; have the person do their own letter, in their own handwriting if possible.
- If an employee is quitting, do not let the person quit until and unless you are satisfied that the company has done everything appropriate to address any legitimate grievances they may have.
After a Claim Arises
There are certain things to remember in responding to any claim whether the employee left voluntarily or was terminated:
- Respond on time to any claim notice, ruling, or appeal decision;
- Be as specific as possible;
- Be consistent in your responses, appeals, and testimony;
- Avoid name-calling or gratuitous derogatory comments toward the claimant;
- In discharge cases, avoid certain terminology such as “inability, incompetence, disloyal, accumulation of things, bad attitude, and mutual agreement;
- In all cases, have all your evidence and firsthand witnesses ready for the hearing;
- Make your testimony brief, factual, and concise. Hearing officers like that!
When the employee has chosen to leave of their own volition it is best to avoid the following in responding to the claim:
- References to how bad the ex-employee might have been, and concentrate on the fact that the claimant left while continued work was still available;
- Comments on how glad the company is that the claimant resigned. Instead, focus on how a reasonable employee otherwise interested in remaining employed would not have left for the reason given.
Neither the employer nor the claimant like when termination is involved, but it does occur. To keep this storm from becoming a hurricane, try to show four main things should a claim be filed:
- A specific incident of misconduct close in time to the discharge;
- That the claimant either knew or should have known that discharge could occur for the reason given;
- That the employer followed whatever policies it has and whatever warnings were given;
- That the claimant was not singled out for discharge, but rather was treated the same as anyone else would have been under those circumstances.
As you keep these things in mind you will sail through this rite of passage perhaps not completely avoiding the storms, but at least doing better than just hunkering down through a hurricane. For more information, contact the Unemployment Insurance Dept. at www.texasworkforce.org or (800) 939-6631. For assistance with your Human Resources needs, contact Employer Services, at (713) 688-6890 or Placementinfo@wrksolutions.com.
Lisa Bogany is a Senior Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. She has over five years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers, and over 10 years experience in small business entrepreneurship.