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Insubordination/Unprofessional Conduct and Unemployment Claims
6 Tips to Ensure Success
We have all had that one employee who consistently acts inappropriately in the workplace. They disrupt the harmony of the office and drag down morale. Most of the time, with good documentation, these types of unemployment claims are preventable. However, they are not without their pitfalls.
The biggest mistake that employers make is to assume that these unemployment claims are slam dunks. Over the years, I have observed many employers being caught off guard by an adverse determination on a conduct claim that they thought was going to be an easy win. The assumption that a third party will automatically see the employee’s conduct as inappropriate often leads them to short-changing the documentation process.
Regardless if the conduct issue is a single event that leads to immediate dismissal, or a pattern of behavior over time, your only line of defense is to collect as much information as you can. Here are six helpful tips to make these cases as ironclad as possible.
- Tie the conduct to specific policies. Often the claimant’s conduct is violating more than just your code of conduct. Make sure that your policy is clearly stated in the warnings or termination documents. The policy does not always have to be written, but you do have to prove they were aware of the expectation.
- Be patient. If the policy is not as clear it should be, or the acts of the employee are not egregious enough to warrant immediate dismissal, reprimand the employee. This will allow you to clarify how their conduct is violating your expectations. It will give them clear guidance and eliminate any ambiguity.
- Pick the issues that you can prove. One of the biggest mistakes employers make is convoluting the issue with items they can’t conclusively prove. For example, if your manager violated the cash handling policy, don’t automatically assume they are guilty of theft. You may suspect them of that, but your suspicion won’t hold much weight without concrete proof. Adding items that you can’t prove will distract from the items that you can prove.
- Document, Document, Document! No matter if you are trying to prove a pattern of unprofessional conduct or a one-time incident, don’t short change your documentation. Collect witness statements and other documentation immediately and make sure that their statements are detailed.It’s better to gather all the information you can and then decide what to use. It will be a lot easier to exclude information that you have collected than to try to re-create information later.
- Avoid being generic. Don’t merely state that the claimant was being insubordinate or unprofessional. Be descriptive of their actions by including their tone of voice, the volume at which they were speaking, their body language etc. If the employee was using profanity, quote them verbatim.Remember that you are painting a picture of their conduct to use in the future. The fact that this information is included in documentation created immediately following the event will add credibility. Having this information included on a document they sign will prove invaluable.
- Evaluate the circumstances and cost. There will be times when you’re going to have to decide between winning an unemployment claim and protecting your organization. The cost of the claim might be insignificant compared to the damage that the employee is causing in other ways. It may be more cost effective to move quickly and concede the claim, especially if you feel that you don’t have the luxury to build a strong case.
Following these steps will nearly eliminate all excuses that the claimant can provide to explain their conduct. By providing the state with detailed information about claimant conduct, you gain the upper hand in credibility and make these claims much easier to win!
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About the Author
Jeff Oswald is the President of Unemployment Insurance Services. In nearly twenty years of managing UI accounts on behalf of businesses, he has participated in thousands of unemployment hearings.
Unemployment Insurance Services
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