You had to let an employee go and before you turn around you get a notice in the mail that your former employee has filed a claim for unemployment compensation. How do you decide when to fight an unemployment claim and when to let it go without objection?
In Texas, the rules are simple. If an employee voluntarily quit or was fired for misconduct, the employee is not entitled to unemployment compensation. Otherwise, an unemployment claim may be approved, even if the employee was let go because there wasn’t enough work or because the employee couldn’t do the job correctly.
A basic rule of thumb is that a claim for unemployment compensation may be granted if the reasons for termination were beyond the employee’s control.
What qualifies as employee misconduct?
Misconduct is behavior deemed to be within an employee’s control. Misconduct can range from stealing to excessive absences. Coming to work under the influence, violating company rules or simply having a bad attitude can also support termination, particularly if the misconduct is well-documented by the employer.
Nonetheless, while these are all good reasons for letting an employee go, an employer must be able to prove the employee’s misconduct to successfully defend against an unemployment claim.
What should an employer do prior to terminating an employee?
Every termination should be considered a potential unemployment claim. If you need to let an employee go for misconduct, be sure to properly document the employee’s behavior in the personnel file. Your business should have procedures in place for documenting disciplinary problems for this very reason. (If you don’t already have such procedures in place, now’s the time to get that done, too.)
A best case scenario is when an employer has adequate documentation in the personnel file to support termination for misconduct, such as one or more letters of reprimand acknowledged in writing by the employee when the misconduct occurred. If possible, the personnel file also should include notarized statements from other employees who witnessed the misconduct.
Finally, a memo stating the reasons for termination, acknowledged in writing by the employee, should go in the file. All of this written information will give you a head start if you need to defend against an unemployment claim.
What if we don’t have documentation of misconduct?
You can still defend against an unemployment claim, but you will need to rely on witness testimony and statements prepared after the employee was terminated. With sufficient witnesses and skilled legal representation, you can present a strong defense at the unemployment compensation hearing, if necessary.
Contact an experienced business law attorney today
Whether you are defending against an active unemployment comp claim or putting procedures in place for you business, get your legal advice from an experienced Bryan-College Station, Texas business law attorney. Our attorneys are here to answer your legal business management questions so you can focus on growing your business. Call the Peterson Law Group to make an appointment at 979-703-7014 or fill out our online contact form.