Unemployment Insurance Claims - Worth the Fight?

In California , unemployment benefits are available to eligible employees who find him or herself out of work. The reasons for being out of work will determine whether a person is eligible for benefits or not.

Generally, an employee laid off through no fault of his or her own is eligible for benefits. The Employment Development Department (EDD) will investigate those claims where the employee quits work or is fired in order to determine eligibility. Claimants are found ineligible for unemployment benefits if they are out of work because they refused to perform suitable work, were discharged for misconduct or quit without good cause.

“Suitable work” is considered work in the person's usual occupation for which he or she is qualified or fit to perform. Factors considered in determining whether the work is suitable include, but are not limited to, the degree of safety risk involved, the employee's physical fitness and training as well as experience and prior earnings, geographic location to the person's home, and other factors that might influence a reasonably prudent person.

“Misconduct” generally involves the employee's substantial breach of a material duty owed the employer that is willful. Further, the breach disregards and tends to injure the employer's interest. An inability to perform the job duties does not qualify as “misconduct”. Failing to follow company policy can be an example of misconduct sufficient to deny a claim for benefits.

An employee may receive benefits if his or her voluntary departure was for “good cause” which occurs when the employee genuinely desires to remain employed, but a “real, substantial, and compelling” reason is a substantial factor in their quitting. Examples of “good cause” includes, among others, leaving because of sexual harassment or to accompany a spouse to another location.

If an employee is eligible for benefits, the employer's account will be surcharged for the benefits paid which means the employer's unemployment insurance tax obligation will increase. Thus, employers are well served to challenge claims when warranted by the facts, and to carefully, thoroughly and timely respond to inquiries from the EDD in responding to unemployment insurance claims as successfully defeating a claim will avoid a surcharge on your account.