Employers Use Unfair Tactics to Fight Unemployment Claims

We often attend unemployment appeal hearings on behalf of clients because they are also pursuing wrongful termination claims against their former employers.  This is both as a precautionary measure and a chance to obtain vital information at the outset of a case. These hearings are conducted in front of an administrative law judge and under oath, so anything either side says could potentially be used against them in later litigation.  If you think that your termination was illegal and that you might pursue claims against the company, I urge you to contact an attorney as soon as possible before you attend an unemployment hearing. If you testify at an unemployment appeal hearing without being prepared you could cause severe damage to your claims without even knowing it.  On the other hand, giving your attorney a chance to question the people who terminated your employment under oath without their having an attorney there to advise them is a tremendous opportunity. In the last five years or so I started noticing non-attorney representatives from third-party companies who specialize in contesting unemployment claims on behalf of employers and they have been becoming more common.  The New York Times recently published an article about the increased use of companies that specialize in contesting unemployment claims for employers. The most disturbing aspect of these companies' involvement is that they seem to contest every single claim filed against an employer, knowing that some employees simply will not appeal a denial of their claim or will not show up at the hearing to fight for their unemployment benefits.  Whenever I see a case where an employer contests an unemployment claim without any reasonable basis for doing so, there is almost always one of these companies on the other side pulling the strings. However, one interesting thing I have noticed is that these companies almost never attend the appeals hearing if they find out the claimant has a lawyer.  To me this suggests that they do not even look at the merits of an unemployment claim unless they absolutely have to, which is a  terrible thing to do to a former employee. In some California counties, these appeals do not go to a hearing until months after the paperwork is filed.   Forcing an employee to go through a meritless appeal of their unemployment is a serious disruption to their life.  Instead of focusing on finding a new job, they have to worry about whether they will not only lose their future benefits, but also have to pay back the unemployment pay they have already received. Many states have passed laws that curtail some of the abuses these companies engage in, but California has yet to take action.  Until then, employees should be vigilant in fighting for their unemployment benefits and should not be intimidated if their employer tries to contest their claim.
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13 Responses to “Employers Use Unfair Tactics to Fight Unemployment Claims”

  1. I don't know if its the same in California, but in New York they do show up at some of the hearings. This being said, we have been successful in contesting these cookie cutter denials. There is definitely purpose to the denials/ objections for even the smallest and pettiest of issues (or even completely fabricated issues). It's a numbers game. Some large fraction of claimants just will not file their appeal within 30 days of the denial.

    The large companies listed in the Times article above (we link to that article on our website FAQ too) at least have the decency to back off the super-frivolous stuff once it gets to a judge. What I have noticed is more and more small employers using increasingly desperate tactics to attack claimants. In several cases they have presented contradictory reasons for challenging a claimants benefits (i.e. we offered the job back & claimant was discharged for misconduct) in the same hearing! And with blatant perjury!

    Employers hold all the cards: The records, the witnesses, and all of the money. These cases are really David v. Goliath in the truest sense.

    It is unfortunate that more attorneys won't consider taking some of these claimant's cases for issues such as defamation, etc. That would change the economic calculus that is being used in all of these bogus, and slanderous, challenges. Just one viable slander case, even if it didn't win, would give employers pause before making up bogus and petty charges against the claimants.

  2. The biggest problem I have found is that companies do not know what qualifies or disqualifies claimants for benefits. They rely soley on cost management firms to make the call. As a result, they routinely contest benefits for things such as layoffs or an employees inability to do the job. These are examples of instances where the law is clear (at least in California) that the former employee qualifies for benefits.

  3. ProtectYourIncome says:

    I used to work at a company where the managers would actually falsify disciplinary action forms, get another manager to "witness" it, and then claim that the employee refused to sign the form.

    At another company, they tried to tell people right in the handbook that "because we are an at-will employer, you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits if your employment is terminated for any reason, regardless of whether you terminate or the company does." That is actually not correct in ANY of the 49 at-will states.

  4. Protect Your Business says:

    I am speaking from a business point of veiw. I am against being unfair to employees and I feel that employers should always practice ethical behaviors. However, employees do not always practice ethical work habits. There are some employees who are not doing everythig they know to do, to be the best at their jobs. They are only doing enough to get a check. Even after giving several chances to improve, they continue to not put forth any effort. Then when they are terminated, they quickly file an unemployment claim. Unemployment is for when a person becomes unemployed at "no fault of their own". When you are not doing what you are suppose to do and you are terminated, then it is your fault why you have become unemployed. Therefore, businesses should contest a claim. Especially when they know that a former employee does not deserve unemployment benefits.

  5. Business Owner says:

    Clearly there are not many individuals with any small business experience creating policy in this country. It is almost impossible to win an unemployment hearing as an employer. I own a small business and every general manager I have ever employed has stolen large sums of money from my family by manipulating the cash handling records and procedures. In a recent case I was able to prove this with transaction records, video footage, and even a confession, among other very carefully prepared evidence. The hearing officer acknowledged that the employee was clearly stealing from the company. Because it took me several weeks to put together the evidence and find a suitable replacement, they ruled in favor of the employee. If anyone has ever had to support their family thru the operation of a small business they understand that it is not realistic to simply terminate key members of a small staff one day and continue to run effectively the next. The laws that exist effectively hold me hostage as an employer regardless of whether my employees commit criminal acts against me. I have resolved to simply let my employer rating soar thru the roof and pay thousand of dollars in additional taxes so that entitled, unappreciative, sociopaths can take an extended paid vacation.

    We have a system that encourages poor performance by the masses and that stifles the entrepreneurial spirit that this country was built on. I treat my employees incredibly well and inevitably the more i give them the more they expect. This country has become about figuring out how to best work the system. Those who take the risk and create the jobs are left wondering why they don't fire their entire staff and join the "poor under-appreciated" masses in the hand out lines. If it was slightly more difficult to get unemployment the countries entitled lazy work force would work harder where they are employed and search harder for new opportunities to better themselves when they are transitioning. This would vastly improve the quality of our productive ability as a country.

    But instead educated capable individuals such as those writing this blog are so far removed from the reality of this that they don't realize that they are actually helping to create and perpetuate a wide spread sentiment that will leave their children a country where there are no natural consequences, no jobs, and no future. The lower class workforce needs to be babysat and disciplined and they need a system that provides consequences.

    It is the essence of what is wrong with this country.

    Luckily we will all eventually suffer the natural consequence of this and enough damage will be done that policy makers will have no choice but to recognize that we have the worst labor pool in the world and it is the direct cause of the economic problems we are having.

  6. sweetpea1982 says:

    So I have been denied 2 times for my benefits. My ex employer flat out told me that if I could not get there that he considers me quit and not to show up. I at the time was out of state about 4 to 5 hrs away. So I did not and tried for a yr to get a job. I had a family member on their death bed and a few days later after this incident she sadly passed away.... I admit i was there a short time but to fire me for a death in the family and then to lie about it beyond me.... What should I do?

  7. Twissa says:

    @ Sweetpea - you should have filed a claim and if it were an immediate family member, you would have been covered under the FMLA act. Not sure if that would help now...but they wouldn't be able to fire you

  8. WorriedSick says:

    Hi I have been receiving NJ unemployment benefits. I worked for an employer for 2 weeks, they claim I quit but I did not. Now my claim may be denied! I'll be homeless what should I do?

  9. Jeff says:

    I'm having a problem with my former employer at the moment as well. They basically did all they could to say I had stolen something when I hadn't done so at all. Now it's an uphill battle fighting against this.

  10. [Redacted] says:

    I worked for Pinnacle Technical Resources in Dallas TX which contracted for AT&T. This was the most unscrupulous company I have ever worked for. They forced everyone to take a $4 dollar pay cut not because the company was nearing financial ruin.. It wasn't. Just because they could. Then the company went around and the people making the most money and who had maxed out were all being suddenly fired for trivial reasons. Long term employees who were often recognized for being standouts.

    The company would also instruct their management to write up everyone every few months for everything they could. No matter how good an associate you were that is what they did. Then as soon as the work slowed, the company would go back and suddenly terminate half their workforce for "misconduct". Managers would go back months sometimes for a tardy just to fire the person.

    The company had subcontracted out with Barnett Associates Unemployment and Verification Specialists out of New York who were the subject of a PBS Investigation which showed the company had been fined and sanctioned by several states for filing frivolous appeals and contests of benefits. The company systematically fought "every" claim regardless of merit and appealed "every" claim. This was happening so much that in New York and New Jersey they instructed their unemployment claims associates to give more weight to the claimant's testimony.

    It is a heartless situation.

    I worked my butt off for this company and was by all means a standout. However, I was caught up in one of these mass firings when work was slow and suddenly I was informed by Texas Workforce the company stated it was for misconduct. However, they ruled in my favor. I am now preparing for a hearing as I know they will appeal. That is what they do. Try to wear a person down through constant hearings so that they can win by default. I am tired but I will fight them. All the way to court if need be.

  11. Dragon Lady says:

    I just got denied UI at the Appeal hearing last Friday . The former employer had been contacted by the State after I had filed my claim. The former employer flat out lied when they said I was fired for misconduct. To add insult to injury , the Judge refused to accept my evidence contesting the classification as misconduct. I am going to appeal to the Board when the written denial comes in the mail.

  12. Bluffguy says:

    If I leave a job to take another job, then within a short period of time I am laid off or let go from that new job ( not for cause ), I understand that the experience rating goes against the 1st employer who I left voluntarily. Can the 1st employer block my claim by stating that I left voluntarily ?

  13. Laurie says:

    I have reading all I can on this subject and it is so upsetting to know you can work your self to death and when they fire you the employer can lie their ways around this.

    I worked for a Huge franchise and I would pull doubles, triples, get 3 hours of sleep and come back, hardly see my family cause I was always at work. But as I was killing myself at this place I was also being harassed by a manager, then she allowed other employees to harass me. I would get accused of stealing this one server's tips and I never did that at all. He was disciplined more then once for this, this employee would not come to work and only get suspended.

    I finally had a nervous breakdown cause of all the stress I was receiving at work. I told my boss I could not work with this manager I was being harassed by and I called out one day, next thing I know I am being fired. While this is going on I also filed an EEOC complaint cause of the harassment from this manager.

    So, now I am fighting UI for this and because the manager is lying I am having to fight UI for my benefits. I don't feel this is right.

    They allow this manager to do this to employees and when it becomes to much for them to take, they fire them. Something is wrong with this?

    Or maybe they are afraid that the truth will come out about the abuse at work?? I don't know, but, I so sick of them treating employees like slaves and when we protest they get rid of us.

    Everyone speaks of Employee's rights but we really have NO rights at all in anyway. IF we stand up to them we are not team players. When do we become people and not just employee's?

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