Unemployment doesn’t have to be a constant worry, if proper steps are followed. And these steps are not hard to follow, no need to dust off law books and beef up the legal council. Below are five things that can easily be done and effortlessly prevent grants and appeals of unemployment, effectively lowering costs.
1. Document, document, document; this cannot be stressed more. It is, sadly, too common to see employer’s loose an appeal when documentation is not there. Everything can, and needs, to be documented and if all issues are documented surrounding an employee it creates an more solid case against unemployment. Now, there is good and bad documentation. When writing a verbal or written warning, include the violation, expected action to improve, the consequences if not met and if there are comments that is recommended. Always, always have the issuer sign however it is okay if the employee refuses. Another key point is to provide reference to certain policies, policy updates, etc. If having employees sign a receipt of a handbook or a policy update acknowledgment is not in current procedures, make it a high priority. Doing these items can and will save you time and money.
2. With documenting fresh in the mind; the topic of ‘how to terminate’ properly needs to be addressed. Whether its discharge or voluntary, the employer will always be partially responsible for obtaining the proper documentation surrounding the incident. The best practice is to always have an un-bias witness present during the actual termination, this will remove any he-said-she-said and create a first-hand witness. An ‘Employee Separation Notice’ is always required and is a great source of information; any and all additional information must accompany the separation notice. (ie: prior related warnings, first hand accounts, signed resignation notice, etc.) These items together create a time stamp and make solid backup.
3. Differing between discharge and voluntary can be unclear, but there are guidelines to follow. If an employee leaves for any reason that they are ultimately responsible for, than the termination would be voluntary. If an employee leaves for any reason that the employer is ultimately responsible for, than the termination would be discharge. Some examples of voluntary terminations are: accepted another job, dissatisfied with job, Job abandonment, and excessive absenteeism. When the termination is voluntary, the ‘burden of proof’ falls on the employee to provide. Some examples of discharge terminations are: lack of work, performance of work, temporary job end, and non-compliance with policy. When the termination is discharge, the ‘burden of proof’ falls on the employer to provide. Whatever the termination is categorized as, always have documentation to solidify the employer’s side.
4. Resignations can be simple and easy if proper procedures are followed. When a person leaves voluntarily, they must submit at resignation notice that is signed and dated. The notice can be a written letter by the employee or a form provided by the employer. For best practice, have a policy set that outlines what a person must do when resigning. This can include a minimum time request for the termination to be submitted (i.e., at least two weeks out) and if the final date is sooner have a procedure on how other employees in their department or other departments will fill-in.
5. Employees aren’t always the gleaming beams of light employer’s hoped they be and must be terminated for gross misconduct. Never react out of frustration or anger when terminating an employee, that could backfire in court. Take time, gather all the documentation surrounding the incident and take 24 hours to think. This may seem impossible for some situations, and that may be the case, but gross misconduct is one the hardest circumstances to prove. If the termination is leaning towards gross misconduct think about the following items to see if it actually fits. Are the issues all related or not? Has the issue been an on-going documented problem? If the issues are all related and have been on-going than gross misconduct may be used. If the issues are not easily related, gross misconduct should not be used.
In closing, unemployment can be easily prevented by using simple procedures and policies. Never be unprepared for termination, hearings and appeals, keep documentation for the longest recommend period declared in the federal or state regulations. And always, keep a level head, never make assumptions and document, document, document. Finally, don’t forget to consult ERC’s Human Resources Department, that is why they are there; they know the laws and best practices to help employer’s not raise costs of their unemployment.