Recently, we represented a client in a difficult situation with EDD. She was laid off and subsequently rehired by the same employer to work on call about 2-3 days per week. She applied for unemployment and was initially approved. She truthfully stated on her initial application for unemployment benefits that she expected to return to work for her most recent employer.
About two years later, while our client continued to receive unemployment benefits, her employer noticed a discrepancy between her actual income while working on call and continuing claim for unemployment benefits, which made it look like she was receiving the maximum amount of benefits per week, as if she wasn't working at all. The employer contacted the EDD with that concern, wondering why our client was receiving full benefits while working on call and having some income every week. In turn, EDD issued a determination that claimant incorrently reported or failed to report her income at all for many weeks during the past 2 years of receiving unemployment benefits. A notice of overpayment and demand to repay over $34,000.00 were subsequently issued by EDD to our client.
On the appeal hearing in front of the CUIAB (California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board), the judge confronted our client with the actual timesheets that she filled out and signed, asking her why she marked that she didn't work for compensation during the weeks when she did. Besides stating that her English wasn't good enough to understand the paperwork, which was hardly convincing, our client did not any other explanation. And there could be no other explanation for that misrepresentation.
This case is an important lesson for unemployment benefits receipients in California, who have to make sure that they fully and accurately report their work status and income on every single timesheet submitted to EDD every week to avoid dealing with overpayment issues and fines years later.
Generally, an employee is disqualified from unemployment benefits if that employee leaves employment volunatrily (resigns) without "good cause". A claimant who has a compelling reason for leaving employment or who was discharged or laid off for lack of work, but leaves voluntarily earlier than the circumstances reasonably required, leaves employment voluntarily without good cause and will be disqualified from unemployment benefits. (Precedent Decisions P-B-27, 37, 39, 228 & 242).
In general "good cause" is such a cause as would, in a similar situation, reasonably motivate the average able-bodied and qualified worker to give up his or her employment with its certain wage rewards in order to enter the ranks of the unemployed. Evenson v. CUIAB (1976).
Thus, under the law, demotion with significant wage reduction is usually not good cause of quitting a job, unless the reduction is so drastic that it reduces the employee's wages in a way that reasonable leaves him know choice but to quit. Further, the law is clear that if you resign before you are laid off or terminated, even when you know for sure you will, you will likely be disqualified from benefits.
It is strongly recommended that you counsult with an experienced employment attorney before you make the decision to quit your job to make sure that you explored all the options available to you under your circumstances to maximize your chances of eligibility for unemployment benefits.
Under the law, an individual who is otherwise qualified for unemployment benefits is not eligible to collect those benefits during the priod of time when he was unavailable to work. This means that if you become unable to work for a few days or a few weeks while collecting unemployment, you must report it on your weekly claim form (there are specific questions on that form that inquire into your health condition and your ability to work).
This is especially important if you are filing for any kind of disability benefits. If EDD finds out that you collect both unemployment benefits and disability benefits, they will charge you with fraud and will demand repayment of unemployment benefits in addition to penalties. As soon as you apply for any kind of disability benefits, you should either stop filling out weekly unemployment benefits claim forms or at the very least point out on your claim forms that you are unable to work due to your medical condition.
One of the large employer's favorite ways to get rid of an employee, for a lawful or unlawful reason (i.e. due to discrimination
or retaliation) is to start creating a record of poor performance, through series of negative performance evaluations, warnings, and PIP's (performance improvement plans). Since the manager has pretty much full discretion and allowed to exercise his/her judgment in evaluating an employee's performance, driving an employee out that way for fabricated performance issues is relatively easy.
Last week we represented a former employee of Well Fargo Bank at unemployment benefits appeal hearing, who has been terminated for alleged poor performance after receiving an award for outstanding 5 years service with the company just a few months before being fired. He was fired shortly after turning fifty five. Our client's manager written him up twice before terminating him for alleged inaccuracies in his work. Reversing the denial of unemployment benefits by EDD and awarding benefits to our client, the appeals board reiterated yet again that "mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, poor performance as a result of inabiltiy or incapacity, isolated instances of ordinary negligence or inadvertance, or good faith errors in judgment or discretion are not misconduct within the meaning of unemployment insurance code that would disqualify claimant from unemployment benefits."
I can smell age discrimination all over this termination. The question is whether we will have sufficient evidence to prove it when we file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
If you find yourself in a process of applying for unemployment benefits, it is very important that you read each and every question on the questionnaire and make sure that you answer the questions truthfully or correctly. If you don't understand a question you should contact the department for assistant or get in touch with an attorney specializing in unemployment benefits law
The reason that filling out the paperwork correctly is so important is that the department may interpret an innocent mistake in your filling out the paperwork as falsehood, and an intentional attempt to defraud the department. This, in turn, may result in denial of benefits due to misrepresentation or even an obligation to repay the benefits which have already been paid.
One of the most common ways that employer tries to fight their former employee's claim for unemployment insurance benefits is arguing that the employee was terminated due to misconduct. Misconduct in the context of unemployment insurance code is a term of art, and understanding its legal definition is crucial to appealing the denial of unemployment benefits at the appeals board if your initial claim has been denied.
Under California Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256 "an individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he left most recent work voluntarily without good cause or that he has been discharged for misconduct connected with his most recent work."
The standard for showing "misconduct" within the meaning of unemployment benefits eligibility is quite high and thus favoring applicants for those benefits. While such gross violations as violence or threats of violence at workplace and clear grounds for disqualification from unemployment insurance benefits, many of the less grave issues at work do not constitute misconduct. Thus, employee's mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, ordinary negligence, or good faith errors in judgment at work are not "misconduct," that will disqualify that employee from receiving unemployment compensation. In this context, the term "misconduct" is limited to conduct evidencing such willful or wanton disregard for an employer's interest as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which employer has right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree, or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of employer's interest or of employee's duties and obligations to his employer.
Even refusal to perform work as directed does not always rise to the level of misconduct that disqualifies an employee from benefits. In one case, the nurse willfully refused to perform work because her consultations with outside authorities led her to conclude that health of patient would be jeopardized if she following her superiors' direction. Because her refusal to perform was out of reasonable and good faith fear of harm to others, she was entitled for unemployment insurance benefits after she was discharged for repeated refusals to follow her employer's orders.
Likewise, an employee's unauthorized departure from work did not constitute misconduct causing his discharge within the meaning of unemployment insurance code where the employer testified that it's the employee's inappropriate language following the confrontation on the day following the unauthorized departure and not the departure itself was the sole cause of his discharge.