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California Employment Law Commentary on Issues Facing California Employers

DOES GOOD CAUSE FOR TERMINATION EQUAL GOOD CAUSE TO CONTEST UNEMPLOYMENT?

Posted in Employment Litigation

Let’s say you have good reasons for termination. Perhaps the employee has well documented performance issues, has fallen asleep on the job, or has violated the harassment policy. Many employers seem to think “good cause” for termination equals good reasons to fight unemployment. A good idea? Not necessarily. Here’s why.

The standards for receiving unemployment are low. There are many circumstances where there is plenty of justification for termination, yet the employee still qualifies for unemployment. To be denied unemployment, the employee must have engaged in “misconduct” as that term is defined by the EDD.

For example, what if the employee falls asleep on the job? Is that misconduct? Quite notably, the EDD makes a distinction between deliberate sleeping (misconduct) and presumably non-deliberate “dozing off” (not misconduct). What if the employee is fired based on a customer complaint? Is that misconduct? According to the EDD, only if the employer also submits proof that the complaint was accurate.

Many employers think they must dispute unemployment to prove that the termination was justified. However, denying someone unemployment can make them just desperate enough financially to seek out a plaintiff’s attorney.

Plus, I have seen many disputed unemployment claims come back to haunt employers, especially if they go to hearing. When an Administrative Law Judges sides with the employee in a disputed claim, that employee is emboldened to sue. I have heard many plaintiffs testify at deposition that they weren’t sure they had a good claim until after winning at the unemployment hearing.

It is fine to contest a claim for an employee who has resigned (preferably with a resignation letter), but for a termination, think twice. Pushing back on unemployment may result in pushing the employee to file a lawsuit.