When it comes to successfully contesting an unemployment claim, an employer must show that the claimant either quit without good cause or was discharged for good cause, which must be established by all three of the following factors:
The claimant knew what conduct was expected by the employer. Proactively, this is accomplished with a current and compliant employee policy handbook along with a signed acknowledgment of receipt and thorough training records. Remedially, this is accomplished by well-documented coaching and verbal or written warning discussions. If it wasn’t documented, it’s hard to prove it happened. This is the only factor the employer can control, so control it well!
The claimant’s conduct was harmful to the employer’s interests. As long as the claimant’s conduct significantly harmed the employer, this factor may be the easiest for employers to establish.
The claimant had control over the conduct that led to his/her discharge. This may be the hardest factor for the employer to establish. When a claimant’s health results in their poor performance or excessive absenteeism that led to the termination of their employment, generally it will be determined that the employer was unable to establish this factor.
While we advise employers to be consistent in their practices, an employer may not want to contest every unemployment claim. The phrase win the battle, but lose the war comes to mind. For example, in a particularly contentious termination, an employer may not want to contest the unemployment claim, because doing so may further upset the claimant to the point of making other claims against the employer.
Finally, preparing to defend against an unemployment claim begins on the employee’s first day of employment. The best way for employers to successfully defend against unemployment claims is to have a strong employee handbook and effective and well-documented training, coaching, and corrective action procedures.