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Unemployment claims

Dear Mary, I recently fired an employee and received a notice from EDD that he is claiming unemployment. I don’t know if they are entitled to unemployment or not. What do I do?

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, an individual must be: out of work due to no fault of their own; physically able to work; actively seeking work; and ready to accept work. A part-time or short-term employee may file an unemployment claim if they meet all of the eligibility requirements.

The Employment Development Department (EDD) will notify the very last employer when an individual files an unemployment claim. This is true regardless of the length of time the employee worked for you.

If you receive a notice of unemployment claim, you have only 10 days to respond, so plan on gathering the necessary information and responding immediately. The most important facts you can provide the EDD involve whether the employee voluntarily quit or was discharged for reasons other than lack of work. If they quit or were fired for misconduct, then they don’t qualify.

If you have information about whether the person is unable to work, hasn’t been looking for work, or has refused work, let EDD know that as well. Review the claim carefully and verify that all of the statements are accurate and complete. The claim should list a reason for separation and the last date worked—make sure that information is correct and properly reflects your records.

You may receive a Notice of Determination (or Ruling) from EDD, which provides a decision on the employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits. I often see determinations based on the reason the employee’s job ended. Whether or not a person was fired for misconduct can be a gray area.

If the employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits is unclear, EDD typically conducts separate telephone interviews with the employee and the employer. If the issue is the reason the employee’s job ended, EDD will investigate the reasons why the individual quit or was fired. The employer has the burden of proof that the employee was fired for work-related misconduct.

Another big issue that often results in a telephone interview is whether an individual has refused an offer of work. EDD will try to determine if the work was suitable and if the person had good cause for refusing the work, as well as whether the claimant is able to work. To be eligible for unemployment, an individual must be available for work and willing to accept work when offered. Sometimes, an employer may offer an employee an alternative position. An unreasonable refusal of such an offer can seriously undermine an unemployment claim.

Telephone interviews are usually brief. Make sure that the person representing the employer is familiar with the employee and their separation. EDD questions should be answered with responses that are as detailed as possible. Do not be surprised if you end up receiving a notice of hearing from EDD to delve into the issues further.

There are several things you can do as an employer to avoid conflicts: keep good employment records, give written warnings and evaluations, and conduct well-documented exit interviews and terminations. In addition to keeping good employment records, it’s equally important to keep those records secure and confidential.

Mary Luros is a business law attorney with Hudson & Luros, LLP, in Napa, and can be reached at or 418-5118. The information provided here is not intended as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship with the author. The author makes no representations as to the reliability or accuracy of the above information. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need disclaimers — or attorneys.

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