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Category: Unemployment Management
Posted: 8/6/20120 Entries
Unemployment Claims: Fighting to Winning
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Unemployment Claims: Fighting to Winning 

"You’re fired!" If you have ever said that to an employee (unless you are Donald Trump and filming the reality show “The Apprentice”), you should be prepared to pay for your now former employee’s unemployment claim. If an employee walks out and therefore terminates employment voluntarily, you may still be required to pay for unemployment. Confusing? You bet.
Terminations are part of the employment life-cycle. A voluntary termination results when an employee chooses to resign. An involuntary termination results when an employer fires, discharges, or lays off (due to budget, workforce reduction, or business closure issues) an employee.
If employers do involuntarily terminate, they should determine if unemployment benefit claims may apply and prepare to defend accordingly if the benefits are granted. Eligibility criteria impacts how unemployment benefits may be awarded. Some of the criteria for eligibility for unemployment benefits includes whether the terminated employee:
  • Became unemployed through no fault of his or her own (e.g. job elimination or reduction in force)
  • Earned sufficient wages with the company or during the claimant’s base year
  • Is available for new work
  • Is actively seeking work

An individual may become disqualified for unemployment benefits if he or she:

  • Was fired for misconduct or a clear violation of company policy
  • Quit without good cause (e.g. walking off the job because of a disagreement with a colleague)
  • Returned back to the same job to work
  • Turned down a suitable job offer during the unemployment period
  • Participated in a strike or work stoppage caused by a labor dispute
  • Received Social Security benefits, severance pay, workers’ compensation payments, state disability benefits, or a private pension
  • Made false claims or omitted information on his or her unemployment claim
In addition, the weekly benefit amount is generally determined by the total wages paid to the employee by his or her employer(s) during the "base" period. The base period typically consists of a minimum amount of work completed within the last five quarters of a calendar year prior to the initial filing for benefits and the amount of earnings during the base period.
Sometimes, employers futilely try to avoid addressing unemployment insurance claims. Now, if you know the employee was discharged through no fault of his or her own, save some time and do not appeal the claim. In other situations, it may be worthwhile to appeal a claim when the employee was terminated for issues such as misconduct, policy violations, or a general unwillingness to perform work. The benefit to employers in defending the claim may result in the employer tax rate being lowered or not increased. Your employer unemployment tax rate is directly impacted by the number of successful claims charged to your account. If you do opt to dispute an unemployment claim, ensure you have gathered all records that may influence the denial or awarding of an unemployment claim, such as performance management evaluations, disciplinary notices/letters, individual complaints, investigation information (if theft, harassment, or workplace violence was an issue), witness statements if applicable, etc. Ensure all paperwork is also ready for the state unemployment agency in a timely manner. If paperwork is delayed, there is a chance the former employee may end up winning the battle by default or forfeiture.
For more information contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 6/28/20120 Entries
The New Protected Class
By HR Pros of the HR Support Center

In today’s economic times, a competitive job force embraces workers with various knowledge, skills, abilities, education, and experience levels. Hiring managers attempt to compare and contrast these items when determining the best job candidate for a specific position. With respect to experience, many hiring managers consider long gaps in employment history on the resume or employment application to be a strike against a potential job candidate. However, due to the high levels of unemployment the country has experienced in the past few years, lawmakers are taking measures to ensure the job candidates who have experienced recent periods of unemployment are still considered viable candidates.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that oversees discrimination in hiring practices. Some of the traditional protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, age (40 and over), disability, military or veteran status, etc. Protected classes were developed from previous anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Pay Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

On April 5, 2012, President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) that is intended to prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed. Under the Act, it is “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refuses to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.” Unselected job applicants will have the right to file a complaint with the EEOC if they are disqualified from consideration due to a recent period of unemployment. The JOBS Act contains the “Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011” (FEOA) that treats unemployed job applicants as a protected class under Title VII. The FEOA would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency that:

  • Fails or refuses to consider or hire an individual based upon his or her status as unemployed.
  • Instructs an employment agency to disqualify an unemployed individual from consideration, screening, or referral for employment.
  • Refuses to consider or refer an unemployed individual for a job opportunity.
  • Publishes advertisements which indicate that unemployed individuals are disqualified or will not be considered for employment opportunities.
Employers are encouraged to look carefully at their hiring methods (especially when viewing recent gaps in employment history) and to assess the role an applicant’s unemployed status has on hiring decisions. There are several remedies that apply within the JOBS Act that include injunctive relief, reinstatement, lost wages, punitive damages, emotional distress damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Employers need to use caution when inquiring into the reasons underlying an applicant’s current unemployment status. Remember, anything more than a minimal investigation into an applicant’s current status (i.e. unemployed) may be considered as an influencing factor in the hiring decision. This can expose the employer to liability if the individual is not ultimately considered or hired for a position.
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
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