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Employment Blog

Denying Unemployment Benefits is Starting to Work

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on May 9, 2014
Filed under Employment

The definition of misconduct under the Wisconsin Unemployment Compensation Law was changed as of the first of the year. We are now starting to see decisions under this new standard that limit employees from receiving unemployment benefits when being terminated from employment due to inappropriate conduct. For many years, an employer was not able to challenge the granting of unemployment benefits unless the employee was terminated for misconduct and then had to meet a very high threshold for proving misconduct occurred and benefits should be denied. The rules have changed and now employers at least have a fighting chance to seek the denial of unemployment benefits when terminating an employee that has taken action that harms the company.

The standards an employer must meet to deny unemployment benefits are either that the employee committed "misconduct" or was terminated for "substantial fault" while performing work duties. The definition of misconduct now reads:

"One or more actions or conduct evidencing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer's interests as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which an employer has a right to expect of his or her employees, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design of equal severity to such disregard, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of an employer's interests, or of an employee's duties and obligations to his or her employer."

The definition of substantial fault which is the new category that allows for denial of benefits is:

"Includes those acts or omissions of an employee over which the employee exercised reasonable control and which violate reasonable requirements of the employee's employer."

Substantial fault would not include (1) one or more minor infractions of rules unless the infraction is repeated after a warning; (2) one or more inadvertent errors made by the employee; or (3) any failure of the employee to perform work because of insufficient skill, ability, or equipment.

Employers now have more flexibility when deciding whether or not to challenge the granting of unemployment benefits to an employee who is terminated from his/her employment with the company. Remember to check the definition to make sure the company is able to challenge the granting of unemployment benefits in those settings.