One of the most important moves Pennsylvania employers can make to cut unwarranted unemployment compensation liability is to establish clear work rules. Those rules should include a requirement that all employees act honestly. Explain to all employees that violating the honesty rule is grounds for termination.
That way, if you confront an employee with an allegation and he or she lies about it, you can fire the worker without incurring unemployment compensation liability. That’s because breaking a reasonable work rule constitutes willful misconduct—and that makes the rule-breaker ineligible for benefits.
Recent case: Shirley Glenn worked for Heartland Employment Services when she took a floor-buffing machine home. According to Glenn, lots of employees “borrowed” company equipment and returned it later.
The company had a strict workplace rule that said, “You agree not to steal or attempt to steal, regardless of the amount, or to be dishonest, regardless of the severity.” When confronted about the missing machinery, Glenn claims she panicked and lied. She told that she had lent it to another of the company’s facilities.
Several days later, she confessed that it was she who had borrowed it. Heartland then fired her for lying—not for taking the equipment home, something the company admitted others had done before. But the lie barred her from getting unemployment compensation. According to the Commonwealth Court, she was guilty of willful misconduct because she violated a clear and reasonable workplace rule—no dishonesty. (Glenn v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 2343 C.D. 2006, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, 2007)
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