Q. We want to fire a bad worker, and we don’t want to take an unemployment comp hit. Under California law, when can a terminated worker be denied unemployment benefits?
A. If you can prove that a former employee was fired for misconduct, the worker won’t be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
To establish misconduct for this purpose, employers must show that the conduct leading to the discharge constituted a substantial disregard of the standard of behavior that an employer has a right to expect from employees.
Thus, you must prove the employee owed a reasonable duty to you as the employer, the worker breached this duty, the breach was willful (known by the employee, as documented by previous warnings) and, if allowed to continue, the employee’s actions would have harmed your operation.
Work rules, job descriptions, employee handbooks and documentation of the former employee’s specific deficiencies are vital to establishing misconduct.
If you suspect that a terminated employee may pursue litigation if benefits are denied, consult your attorney before deciding to challenge the worker’s claim for unemployment compensation.