Last December we laid off a handful employees. Our President met with them, explained how to apply for unemployment, suggested two companies who were hiring temporary help, and left the door open for their return. Our company believed this was the right thing to do, but there are times a dismissed employee doesn’t qualify for unemployment. When a company isn’t aware of the acceptable just causes—they may be surprised.

Have you Been Disappointed in the Outcome?

The other day, a friend lamented the time he spent, after hours, putting together a case for the Office of Workforce Development explaining why someone he fired, for flagrant disregard of company policy doesn’t deserve, “To sit around and collect unemployment.”

As district manager for a sales team, I terminated a salesperson for not hitting sales quotas. Standing before the judge, at the unemployment hearing, I explained the quotas were the same for all salespeople. I produced three corrective actions, signed by the employee, regarding the importance of maintaining quotas. The third showed termination as the consequence of not achieving quotas. We lost the case. We didn’t prove the employee was in breach of his duties. Whether he was successful at achieving quotas wasn’t the issue—his adherence to procedure was. In his case, he hadn’t followed procedures, but that wasn’t documented.

Another unemployment case, I was involved with, involved a terminated employee who admitted, in writing, to smoking marijuana while operating a company vehicle. The employee stated others did the same, and he was being singled out. We lost the case. We couldn’t prove the policy was uniformly enforced.

Here’s What You Need to Know

The key to avoiding unjust termination is knowing the just causes for employment termination in your state. Ignorance of regulations can lead to disappointment. Don’t misunderstand me, when unemployment insurance is earned, It should be granted, but when it isn’t justified, knowledge of the rules and regulations is critical.

Every state has its own regulations. Below I’ve paraphrased Indiana’s just cause regulations. For the complete text, go to IC (Indiana Code) 22-4-15.

• Falsification of an employment application
• Violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced rule
• Unsatisfactory attendance, if the individual cannot show good cause
• Damaging the employer’s property through willful negligence
• Refusing to obey instructions
• Reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs
• Conduct endangering safety
• Incarceration following conviction
• Breach of duty in connection with work

Base period and income earned qualification vary by state. For example, as stated in the Indiana Unemployment Claimant Handbook, “You must also have base period wages totaling at least $4,200, with $2,500 of those wages earned in the last six (6) months of the base period.”

Supporting employees terminated through no fault of their own is the right thing to do, and knowing the regulations when confronting an employee who fired themselves is as well. How is employment termination conducted at your place of business? For additional information, you may refer to this US Dept. of Labor Unemployment Fact Sheet.