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Who goes there?

Do you ever get involved in fighting questionable Unemployment claims? If you do, then you need to read this. I have three amazing factoids which have been rolling around in my head for years. Knowledge of these three factoids will drastically change your success rate when fighting claims. These numbers are not the kind of thing you forget. I got them from a Department of Labor study. The DOL took thousands and thousands Unemployment Compensation cases nationwide and studied them for results. Here's what they came up with:

1) Out of every thousand Unemployment claims presented to the local offices nation wide, can you guess how many are denied? The answer is 33. Think about it. Three point three percent. It's obvious that the folks down at the local unemployment claim office are not in the business of turning people down. So if you have someone you think should be turned down, there's a good chance that you will have to pursue the case yourself. They are not apt to do it for you.

2) Out of every thousand employer initiated appeals nation wide, can you guess how many the employer lost? Get this: 676. Think about it. That figure is absurd in and of itself. Do you think that two thirds of the time, after an ex-employee was granted benefits, that his ex-employer appealed even though they knew darn well all along that the claimant was genuinely laid off? Did they take all the trouble to get together a bunch of bogus documentation and traipse on down to the hearings office and fool around there half a day, just to screw the worthy claimant out of what was rightfully his? Are employers that mean? Do Human Resource departments have nothing else to do? Or is something going wrong here?

3) Now here is the clincher: The number one reason for losing employer initiated appeals, accounting for over 600 out of those 676 lost appeals was what? Can you guess? Poor documentation? Wacky laws? Screw-loose hearings officers? Lying claimants? Absolutely none of the above. Don't blame anyone else. Employers, HR Departments, you can point the finger straight at yourselves. It's your fault. And you should have known better. The number one reason for employer initiated appeals going south is simply that the wrong person went to the hearing.

Think about it. This is America. Other than the IRS, we insist on due process in everything we do. The Unemployment hearing is no exception. It may not be a court of law, but many of the same rules of evidence apply there as we would insist on anywhere. One of the important elements in our notion of fairness is that second hand testimony is suspect. Third hand evidence? Forget it. If it was no more than our child being called in to the principal because he had been accused of loitering in the hall, and he knew it wasn't true, we would hope our child had enough sense to say, hey, wait a minute, who said he saw me? Let him come and say it to my face!

As simple and basic and right and familiar as this notion is, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a Human Resource manager boast: "I go to every hearing and fight appeals myself!" Sometimes, this person is even the Comptroller or business owner. Why? Why are they going? Are they ubiquitous? Is each of them on the shop floor, in the office, on the loading dock, up and down the line, in each and every place the company does business at all times? No. But someone was in each place at the critical moment. That's the person with first-hand knowledge. Keep in mind that the Unemployment case is based more than anything upon the final incident, that precipitating event which created the separation. So use this cutting edge to sort out the necessary hearing attendees from the uneccessary: Who was there? That's the person who has to go to the hearing. Who was not? They most likely have something better to do than go to the hearing. It may be a supervisor who delivered a verbal warning. It may be a co-worker who saw Joe put somthing in his pocket. It may be anyone. But it is probably not the HR Manager nor the owner.

If you were the officer conducting the unemployment appeal hearing, what would you do if the Human Resource Manager sat down and said: "So and so told me that Joe put something in his pocket."? I submit that you yourself would listen very politely, but discount every word she said. Well, expect that hearing officer to be just as fair minded as you. He will listen politely and forget it. He wants to hear so and so say it. Not you.

Go back and read those three factoids again. Because chances are good that if someone you fire for cause goes to apply for Unemployment, you will have to fight the case. Chances are good that if you appeal, you will lose. And chances are that the quickest way to lose is to send the wrong person to the hearing. Odds are against you. But it is very easy to turn them in your favor. Just send the right person.

Here's the math:

  • 676 out of a thousand employer appeals are lost
  • 600 of those are because the wrong person went
  • 676 minus 600 is 76

So only 76 out of a thousand appeals are lost when the right person attends.

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