August 2018 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis
Case Analysis: Claimant assumes she is fired over absenteeism policy
The claimant is separated from employment after a series of absences. She was allowed benefits upon a finding that she was discharged, but not for misconduct connected with the work. The employer appealed. A hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.
At the Hearing
The Employer’s Evidence:
The employer’s witnesses testified that the claimant was approved for intermittent leave. They were given all the paperwork to fill out and return for any covered absences; however, the claimant did not return the paperwork. The employer’s witnesses met with the claimant and asked for the required paperwork. During this time they informed her that any absences unsupported by documentation, would subject the claimant to disciplinary action under the absenteeism policy. She was given a document to sign acknowledging that information. After refusing to sign it, the claimant told the employer’s witnesses to “have a nice life,” left, and never returned to work. The employer assumed she had quit. Both employer witnesses testified that the claimant was not told she would be fired if she did not sign the document. One of the witnesses even provided notes taken during the meeting, which did not mention a threat of discharge.
The Claimant’s Evidence:
The claimant testified that her manager told her that if she did not sign the paperwork, she would be let go. When she didn’t sign the paperwork because she disagreed with the need for it, she assumed she was fired and never returned to work.
The Hearing Decision:
The administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the claimant quit without good cause connected with the work. The ALJ found as fact that the claimant’s manager did not tell the claimant that she would be let go. The claimant had the duty to determine whether she was discharged for certain. Her failure to do so meant that she left work voluntarily. She offered no evidence to support a finding of good cause to quit, and was disqualified from benefits.
The claimant appealed, arguing her illness covered her absences and she should not have been discharged.
The Board of Review Decision:
The Board of Review (BOR) agreed with the ALJ’s decision, based on the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing. The claimant wasn’t informed that she would be discharged if she did not sign the document. The BOR also found that the claimant’s failure to know for certain that she was discharged was evidence that she had quit voluntarily. Her quit was properly considered to be without good cause connected with the work.
- Any information a claimant gives to the state during the unemployment claims process is very useful. It helps define witnesses and evidence to present at an unemployment hearing. In this case, the employer received the state file with the notice of hearing. In the file, the employer was able to see exactly what the claimant said when she filed for benefits. The claimant’s prior statements can be useful because claimants generally give the same story at the hearing. Should the claimant’s statements differ from what actually happened at the time of separation, be prepared to give the ALJ evidence to prove the facts of the case. If a claimant’s statement is unrebutted with evidence, it can become a Finding of Fact. The ALJ could have allowed benefits, if the claimant’s testimony favored her case.
- Claimants who believe they have been discharged, but haven’t been told, might have to prove good cause to quit to be allowed benefits. Many states have found that a claimant who believes they’ve been discharged, but has not been told by someone in authority that she has been discharged, needs to ask questions to determine if, in fact, her employment has ended.
Are you in a similar case? If so, be prepared to present first-hand evidence to rebut the claimant’s statement regarding the discharge. This could include the claimant’s manager’s testimony or signed warnings. This could also include testimony from Human Resources about your standard discharge procedures.
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