February 2016 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis
The claimant was discharged for not maintaining required certification for his position. The claimant was allowed benefits upon a finding that he was not discharged for misconduct connected with work. The employer appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.
At the Hearing
The Employer’s Evidence
As a social worker for the employer, the claimant was required by state law to maintain a certain criminal background-related clearance to perform the duties of his position. The requirement was contained in the employer’s policies, and included the language that failure to maintain the clearance was grounds for termination. The claimant was given the policy at hire and signed acknowledgement of its receipt. Near the end of the claimant’s employment, the employer was notified that the claimant had lost the clearance. The employer testified that per state law, the claimant could no longer remain in his position. The employer was unable to present any evidence regarding the reason the clearance was revoked. The employer had no choice but to discharge him.
The Claimant’s Evidence
The claimant testified that he had received the employer’s policy and was aware of the requirement that he maintain the required clearance. The claimant testified that he was unaware of why he lost the clearance, as the state would not give him a reason why it was revoked. He testified that he was working with the state to have the clearance reissued.
The Hearing Decision
The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant was discharged, but not for misconduct connected with the work, and he was allowed benefits. The Administrative Law Judge found that the employer failed to prove that the claimant committed misconduct or was otherwise negligent with regard to his clearance. The employer appealed, arguing that the claimant should be disqualified because the employer had no choice but to discharge him as he could no longer remain in his position under state law.
The Board of Review Decision
The Board of Review agreed with the Administrative Law Judge and the ALJ’s decision was affirmed. The Board found that although the claimant could no longer remain employed, the employer failed to prove disqualifying misconduct in the case. The employer was unable to prove that the claimant’s loss of clearance was due to any action on his part that would amount to disqualifying misconduct. The fact that the claimant was denied clearance, in and of itself, was not sufficient for a disqualification.
- The focus in a discharge case is whether the claimant’s actions rise to the level of misconduct connected with the work under state law. What the claimant did, or failed to do, will generally determine whether or not the claimant should be disqualified from benefits. In this case, there was no proof that the revocation of his clearance was due to any fault of a claimant. If the employer in this case had been able to present evidence that the claimant did or failed to do something specific which resulted in the revocation of his clearance, the outcome of this case might have been different.
- A decision on unemployment benefits is separate and distinct from a decision regarding whether the employer was justified in firing the claimant. With regard to unemployment benefits, the decision the state will make is whether the reason for discharge rises to the level of misconduct under state law, not whether the employer should or should not have fired the claimant. Some states will consider the effect of the claimant’s actions on the employer when deciding unemployment cases, but the focus will generally be on whether the claimant’s actions meet the states definition of misconduct sufficiently to disqualify him from benefits.
To learn more about this distinction and how Equifax can help your organization with unemployment cost management and the hearings process, contact Pete Krieshok at pete.krieshok@Equifax.com.
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