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March 30, 2010
How to Contest Questionable Unemployment Benefit Claims

In a 2010 BLR webinar entitled "Unemployment Taxes and Claims: How to Reduce Your Costs and Effectively Contest Claims," Ronald Adler, president and CEO of Laurdan Associates, Inc., outlined what employers need to know in order to contest questionable claims for unemployment benefits.

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"You should adopt the practice of reviewing all claims filed by former employees for unemployment benefits," he said, "and contesting every single claim that’s questionable in any way. Doing so can greatly reduce your unemployment expenses."

Typically, an employer will receive notification from the state unemployment office when a former employee has filed to receive unemployment benefits.

The first technique an employer must follow, said Adler, is to respond to these notices by the deadline given—usually, 10 days or fewer. "If you fail to respond by this deadline, you will generally be charged for the benefits, no matter how many defensible objections you may have."

If the worker voluntarily quit, you should respond with a summary of the actions you took as the employer to help the worker resolve any issues that led to the departure.

If the worker was laid off, you should respond with information about severance pay, accrued vacation pay, and other payments made to the worker, because those amounts could reduce the benefits given to the worker (i.e., he or she may not qualify for benefits until those payments have elapsed).

If you terminated the worker for misconduct, you should respond with a brief explanation about the worker’s actions or inactions that led to the discharge. Misconduct usually involves several factors: knowledge (the worker should not have been surprised that his or her behavior was unacceptable); culpability (the worker’s actions or inactions must have harmed or potentially damaged you as the employer in some way); and control (the worker must have had command over his or her actions to avoid the misconduct).

Patterns of misconduct are generally regarded more strongly than single incidents. Include information in your response about warnings, counseling sessions, and any other efforts you made to remedy the situation before terminating the worker in the end.

Ronald Adler is president and CEO of Laurdan Associates, Inc. www.laurdan.com, a human resources management consulting firm specializing in unemployment insurance audits, consulting, research and expert witness testimony. Contact him at radler@laurdan.com.

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