As an advocate for businesses, you might assume that I stand behind an employer’s decision to challenge an ex-employee’s claim for unemployment compensation. You’d be wrong. In fact, I believe that employers are better served not challenging the unemployment compensation claims of most ex-employees. Just because an employer can win an unemployment challenge doesn’t mean it should file the challenge in the first place. In most cases, employers should simply chalk unemployment up to the cost of doing business, and having to hire (and fire) employees.
Of course, for every rule there exists the exception. Some employees lose their jobs for misconduct that cannot be tolerated and must be challenged. Case in point: Clucas v. Rt. 80 Express, Inc. (Ohio Ct. App. 3/26/12) [pdf]. Rt. 80 fired Clucas, a truck driver, after he tested positive for marijuana following a minor accident. Needless to say, the court of appeals upheld the denial of his unemployment.
Clucas is a great example of when an employer should challenge an employee’s unemployment claim. A business cannot have truck drivers under the influence while on duty. Other examples of when it’s appropriate to challenge unemployment are egregious intentional misconduct such as theft, harassment or other discriminatory conduct, or assault. Unemployment is another example of the maxim I discussed a few weeks ago—just because you have a legal right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right business or HR decision. The legality of an action is one factor in the decision-making calculus, but not the only one.