Have you received a Request for Information or Unemployment Award Decision from the a state unemployment agency for an employee who left your employ weeks or months ago? With the dramatic rise of unemployment filings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are receiving unemployment decisions or requests for employment information for former employees who have not been employed by them for a great period of time.
Under most state unemployment laws, employers can be liable for a former employee’s unemployment benefits up to a year from departure of employment. The standard principles governing an employer’s liability for unemployment benefits continue to control these former employee situations. Meaning, if the employer terminated the employee without just cause or previously laid the employee off in the last year, the employer will likely be liable for the former employee’s unemployment benefits up to a year after departure, even if the employee started new employment immediately after departure.
On the other hand, if for example your former employee resigned or quit employment to take a position with a new employer or to move away, the employer will likely be able to avoid unemployment liability by responding to the information request and providing that the employee resigned or quit on their own accord. The same conclusion also holds true if you terminated the former employee for just cause.
In all cases, regardless of the reason for departure, the former employer will receive a request for information from an unemployment commission as employees have to list all employers over the last year. Therefore, employers must complete and timely respond to these requests for information, including the details surrounding the departure. Employers should include all relevant information as well, including resignation letters/emails or handbook provisions that have been violated leading to a termination.
If an unemployment commission ultimately holds you, as the former employer, liable for unemployment benefits, it is important that you timely appeal these decisions, including all supporting legal and factual arguments and documents. Otherwise, even as the former employer, you will remain liable for up to 100% of the unemployment benefits award to the former employee.
Bryan Meek is a member of Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s Labor & Employment team and is available to assist you with responding to requests for information and/or appealing unfavorable unemployment decisions. Bryan can be reached at 330.253.5586, or firstname.lastname@example.org.