Given the hard economic times, and surge of unemployment, Wisconsin employees have reason to be concerned about being laid off or fired from their jobs.
Unfortunately, WI workers have an additional concern: there are some employers out there who appear to challenge the unemployment benefits of most, if not all, of the workers whose employment is terminated.
A challenge-every-unemployment-claim employer may contract with lawyers or vendors whose sole job is to process unemployment challenges by the company. Unemployment challenges thereby become a streamlined business function.
Apparently, some employers have decided that they benefit financially by challenging every (or many) unemployment claims; by winning some percentage of these challenges, they save money that would have been paid toward unemployment benefits. And apparently the employer expects the money “earned” from defeating unemployment claims will be more than the money paid to the vendors and lawyers who work to defeat the employees’ claims.
The employers’ most common basis to challenge unemployment is to claim the terminated employee was fired for “misconduct.” If an employee is legally found to be fired for “misconduct” (defined by WI law to basically mean severe wrongdoing that goes above and beyond poor job performance), then they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
I expect employers to make a surge of overreaching “misconduct” allegations, and a surge of unemployment benefits challenges, that coincide with the increased job terminations during the economic downturn.
For those Wisconsin workers who are laid off (or expect you may be), I have a post here about pursuing unemployment benefits and preparing for an appeal hearing, should there be a dispute over your unemployment benefits.
Please note: I don’t intend to be fear-mongering here. Most employers do not challenge unemployment in an assembly-line fashion and reserve their allegations of “misconduct” only for a minority of their terminated employees (i.e. those employees who the employer truly believes committed misconduct). But the assembly-line unemployment-challengers are increasing in number, and tough economic times will further amplify the trend. Bottom line: in this day and age you cannot assume your employer will act fairly if you apply for unemployment benefits.
You should keep an eye out to make sure your employer is not one of those who treats unemployment proceedings as a business forum to save money, and who value that function over human rights and survival benefits. If you are one of the unfortunate persons who are laid off or fired, you should ask around, to see if your employer has routinely challenged unemployment for most or all workers.
Regardless of your employer’s track record with unemployment, you should prepare for an unemployment challenge, and you should consider Plan B alternatives in the event that unemployment benefits are denied. By being aware of these possibilities and planning to prevent them, you will increase your chances of receiving unemployment benefits.
Please note this post does not provide legal advice- if you want legal advice, you must talk to an attorney about your specific situation. If you are interested in legal assistance from attorney-author Michael Brown or his law firm DVG Law Partner for your Wisconsin unemployment matter, please contact us here: