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Contesting unemployment benefits? Choose reason for denial and stick with it

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

If you are going to oppose a former employee’s unemployment compensation application, determine what reasons you will present and stick to them. If you offer alternative reasons during the appeal process, chances increase that the court will allow the benefits.

Recent case: When Anthony was fired from his job with Goodwill, he applied for unemployment compensation benefits. His former employer said he had violated its written rules against harassment and provided two written statements from co-workers describing conversations with Anthony in which he made apparent lewd comments.

However, when it was time for a hearing, Anthony successfully prevented the letters from getting into evidence because the co-workers weren’t present to verify their statements.

That’s when the employer switched to an alternative reason for the discharge. The supervisor who was present testified that Anthony was also fired for insubordination by violating an oral demand that he not discuss with co-workers an alleged sex crime perpetrated on his son.

Anthony cried foul, arguing that he couldn’t have been fired for insub­or­­­di­­nation when his employer had cited a different reason earlier.

The court sided with Anthony and awarded benefits. (Guzik v. Unem­ploy­ment Compensation Board of Review, No. 2087, Com­mon­wealth Court of Penn­syl­vania, 2014)

Final note: Take unemployment compensation hearings seriously.

Make sure you have witnesses ready and willing to testify to alleged wrong­doing. Don’t rely on written statements. And while you may not technically need an attorney, it’s almost always a good idea to have one.

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