While an employee who voluntarily resigns without good cause related to the employment or is terminated for job abandonment should not receive weekly unemployment benefits, he or she can start receiving benefits based on nothing more than a brief statement about the circumstances of how his or her employment ended. If unchallenged, this can mean a significant cost for employers in terms of higher taxes. To contest an employee’s eligibility for benefits, an employer must navigate a confusing and complicated series of administrative protests, hearings, and appeals. In fact, the burden historically has rested entirely with the employer to demonstrate that its experience rating should not be charged when a former employee receives unemployment benefits.
However, several changes to the law regarding unemployment benefits have recently taken effect. A former employee seeking benefits is now required to provide any available information and documents at the outset of the process to substantiate his or her entitlement to benefits. If a claimant fails to do so, the Department of Economic Security may deny the claim.
Additionally, once an employer provides documentation demonstrating that the claimant either abandoned or voluntarily resigned from his or her job without good cause related to the employment, the burden shifts back to the claimant to prove eligibility. This is a subtle, but important, change — if the claimant subsequently fails to provide further evidence that he or she is entitled to benefits, the presumption will be in favor of the employer.
When rock-solid evidence of job abandonment or voluntary resignations is not available, it is enough for the employer to provide written or oral statements explaining the circumstances of the separation and noting that work was available for the employee at the time of separation. Of course, when demonstrating that an employee voluntarily resigned, a signed letter of resignation is excellent evidence to submit.
The bottom line is that an employer can implement policies and procedures to help the company get the most out of the changes in the law. First, consider having a resignation form available to employees so that they can easily put the reason for their resignation in writing. Second, consider implementing a policy whereby a supervisor or manager who receives an oral resignation immediately writes a statement explaining the circumstances of the resignation and detailing what the employee said as he or she resigned. Likewise, anytime an employee abandons his or her job, the employee’s manager should document the occurrence with a written statement detailing the shifts missed, any attempts to reach the employee, and noting that there was work available for the employee. Copies of such statements or letters of resignation, whether prepared by the employee or the manager, should be turned in to whoever responds to unemployment claims.