What you might consider "puffery" on your resume or on a job application can not only cost you your job, but can also cost you your unemployment benefits. Many employees are unaware that their application documents become part of their personnel file, and therefore, employees can be fired for lying on them, even if the deed is uncovered after hiring.
Knowingly breaking an employer's rules
Most employers protect their interests by providing work rules in an employee handbook or manual. There may be a signature page in the manual, that you are required to sign in order to show that you understand the rules. The signature is used as evidence to show the administrative law judge that you had knowledge of the rules. Once the employer can show knowledge by entering these documents into evidence, they only need to prove that the employee's behavior was a violation of the work rules. So know what you are signing, and know what your employer's work rules are. Your greatest defense will be if the "rule" you broke was not in the Manual.
Some employee manuals create a "progressive discipline" system where verbal warnings, written warnings, suspensions and some times probation are instituted before firing. If you can show that other employees committed these infractions and were not terminated, then you can show that the rules are not "uniformly enforced."
Unexcused absence or tardiness
If an employee manual has an attendance policy, or a maximum number of sick days, or a call-in policy, violating any of these rules can result in the denial of benefits for just cause.
Absent a written policy, the employer will have a more difficult time showing that you knew what the policies were and that they are uniformly administered, but is not fatal to the employer's case.
Purposely damaging the employer's property
This issue requires little explanation. An employee's defense will most likely be over whether the property was damaged "purposely."
Refusal to obey employer instructions (a.k.a. insubordination)
This example of "just cause" is more gray than black and white. In the case of verbal instructions there will be argument regarding whether the instruction was ever given, if it was clear and understood, and the reason for the refusal. If the refusal was, for example, because the instruction required the employee to violate the law, an exception can be applied.
If there have been no verbal or written warnings for refusal, and the employee manual provides a progressive discipline model, you may have a better opportunity to convince an administrative law judge that the instruction was never given or that it was not clearly understood.
It should be becoming clear by now that if an employee manual exists, the employer will use it as evidence in the hearing. Because evidence must be sent to all parties in advance of the hearing, get your employee manual and send it in its ENTIRETY as part of your evidence. The employer will inevitably send only the pages that prove their case.
Reporting to work under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or consuming drugs and/or alcohol on the job
The specifics of drug testing and the legality thereof, are beyond the parameters of this guide. However, suffice it to say that many workplaces now profess to being "drug and alcohol free" and many are also "smoke free". If you are fired for drug or alcohol use, you should most definitely retain counsel.
Look for an additional legal guide on the subject of what the employer must do to defend a firing for failing a drug test in Indiana.
Conduct that threatens the safety of others
Anger management issues and violence towards others amount to "just cause" for termination. There may be specific policies against fighting in the workplace, stalking after or during work and other acts of violence. Where progressive discipline is instituted, violence is usually grounds for immediate termination.
Conviction and imprisonment for a serious crime
While conviction for a serious crime is grounds for termination, imprisonment for minor crimes may not be grounds for termination, but may violate an employer's attendance policy. Employers are given broad latitude for violation of attendance policies.
Breach of a duty you owed your employer
This is a catch-all category. It includes all other areas that may not be included in the employee manual, and may cover any areas that an administrative law judge reasonably feels falls under an employee's duties to the employer.
If you quit voluntarily
Lastly, quitting usually disqualifies an employee from receiving unemployment benefits; however, there is one exception. If an employee quits because an employer has created a hostile work environment, or participates in a constructive discharge, an employee may be able to overcome the employer's argument. Unfortunately constructive discharge is most difficult to prove. Be wary of the old phrase "if you quit we won't have to fire you." If an employer makes this statement, try to get in writing that they won't challenge your unemployment application for "just cause."
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