By Burke Brown, Payroll Experts, Inc

With the New Year many of you have received or will be receiving shortly your updated unemployment rate for 2014.  As many of us set goals with each new year, I thought the below article that I came across in the HR support center had some good ideas to help control your unemployment in the years to come.

Here are a few best practices to consider prior to terminating an employee: 

  • Provide the employee with a written warning regarding the misconduct prior to termination.  Although no labor law requires a private, non-unionized organization to warn an employee prior to termination, doing so may assist the employer in defending a potential unemployment claim.  Also, if employees have been led to believe that certain steps will occur prior to termination, the employer should make a good faith attempt to follow those steps, or else risk losing the unemployment claim.
  • Distribute an Employee Handbook and obtain signed acknowledgment forms.  Employers have a much better chance of successfully defending an unemployment claim if they can cite the specific Employee Handbook policy that was violated by the former employee.  Distributing an Employee Handbook is an excellent means of demonstrating how employees were made aware of the policy, and of the consequences of noncompliance with workplace rules and guidelines.
  • Investigate all harassment, discrimination, wage and hour, and other serious workplace complaints.  In most states, if an employee resigns with “good cause,” he will be eligible for unemployment benefits.  If the individual can substantiate that he complained of a serious workplace concern, but the employer took no effective action to address the allegation or retaliated somehow against the claimant, the former employee is generally awarded unemployment benefits. 
  • Remember the “reasonable person” standard.  This is a common standard used when making unemployment decisions.  Therefore, always consider whether a reasonable person would terminate an employee given the present circumstances prior to making the termination decision.
  • Treat employees fairly and consistently with respect to termination decisions.  Remember, the state personnel processing claims are themselves employees, not employers, and they naturally have opinions of what they consider fair treatment.  So whether right or wrong, it is important to keep this in mind when terminating employees.  Additionally, past practices for a situation bearing similarity to other workplace policy violations should be taken into consideration.  It will be more difficult for a former employee to successfully make an unemployment claim if the employer has documented evidence that an employee’s separation was conducted in line with company policies and past practices.

Of course, there are times when the potential cost of an unemployment claim is insignificant when compared with the financial, emotional or opportunity cost of continuing to employ the individual.  Therefore, there are certainly strategic elements to consider in conjunction with these best practices when making termination decisions.

This information was provided through our HR Support Center, which can be a valuable resource for you and your business. If you have HR needs that we can help with please let us know.


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