5 Mistakes that Will Sink Your Florida Unemployment Compensation Defense: An Employer’s Guide
Fail to maintain proper documentationIf you fail to prepare and maintain adequate documentation, then no recorded, unbiased proof will exist of company policies and events leading up to and surrounding the work separation. Documented evidence is important in a UC case because the burden of proof is on the person who initiates the work separation.
If the employer terminates the employee, the employer bears the burden of proving its case. The best evidence is documentation.Therefore, everything should be documented: company policies, personal and performance evaluations, employee complaints, witness statements, notes, memoranda, attendance logs, time sheets, warnings, notices, letters of suspension and other disciplinary actions. Every document should be signed by the employee so they can not argue that they were unaware of it.
Fail to complete the unemployment agency's employer notification formWhen a worker files an unemployment claim, Florida's unemployment agency will send you the Determination Notice of Unemployment Compensation Claim Filed. Typical information you will need to provide includes the employee's length of employment with your company, annual wages and whether the employee quit voluntarily or was fired. If an employee was fired, you will need to explain the reasons for the termination. Complete the form and return it by the deadline or ask for an extension. If you miss the deadline, the unemployment agency may automatically award the claimant UC benefits.
Fail to appeal an adverse rulingThis sounds obvious, but employers must be sure to appeal an adverse ruling before the deadline expires. The losing party is required to file an appeal no later than 20 days after receiving notice of an adverse ruling. Therefore, employers must not delay. Do whatever you must to assure timely filing because once the 20 day window closes, no exceptions exist to permit late filing. No excuse qualifies as good cause. The determination becomes final and unappealable.
If you receive an adverse ruling in the initial determination, file an appeal with Florida's Office of Appeals within the Agency for Workforce Innovation before the deadline expires. Since the deadline is so inflexible and final, send the letter through registered mail, return receipt requested, to protect against a potential claim of untimely filing. The postmark date will be considered the filing date.
Fail to attend the appeal hearingThe importance of attending the appeal hearing can not be overstated. Parties only get one chance to present their case. The second layer of appeal does not allow parties to present their case. Instead the Appeals Commission rules on the evidence presented at the first hearing. Not attending the initial appeal hearing substantially increases the chance of losing because employers often carry the burden of proving their case. If you do not attend the hearing, the claimant's version of the story will go uncontested. The claimant can say whatever he or she wants, and the appeal referee will base his or her decision only on evidence presented at the hearing. Even if neither party attends, the referee will likely rule against the employer because employers carry the burden of proof. Employers must attend appeals hearings. Be prepared to present your case at the hearing and bring documented evidence. Though not the best choice, parties have the option of attending telephonically.
Fail to present evidence at the appeal hearingWhile failing to attend a UC appeal hearing will almost guarantee a loss, doing nothing more than showing up will not guarantee a win. Employers must present the appeal referee with persuasive evidence if they hope to overcome the referee's statutorily required bias in favor of the employee.
Appeal referees consider proper documentation and eyewitness testimony to be the most persuasive evidence. Therefore, employers should not only maintain extensive and thorough documentation, but should also present that evidence at the hearing. In addition, employers should bring eyewitnesses to the hearing to testify. Eyewitnesses are important for several reasons. Their presence alone reduces the likelihood that claimants will lie or fudge the truth during their testimony.