Don't Be Denied Unemployment

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As layoffs mount, more employers are protesting unemployment claims filed by ex-employees, according to The Washington Post. That's because employers typically fund the state's unemployment pool and each company's rate is determined by its history.

After their unemployment benefits are denied, some workers are surprised to learn they weren't really "laid off ." Instead they were reported as terminated for cause, like tardiness or poor performance. While workers have a chance to protest a denied claim, the process takes time and effort.

If the worse happens to you, make sure you're prepared to validate your claim for unemployment benefits.

Keep performance records: Maintain a duplicate file at home, because if you are laid off and escorted from the building, you may not be able to go through your desk to retrieve your personal files. Keep a copy of your performance reviews and any letters or e-mails of commendation you receive. If you receive a warning, and correct your behavior, ask your boss for written proof of your improvement. If you only receive verbal confirmation, document when the conversation occurred and keep the note in your folder. Also, consider sending an e-mail to your boss confirming the conversation, which puts the onus back on him to respond, if he disagrees with your assertion.

Ask why: If you are let go, ask for the official reason. The person letting you go may call it a layoff and put a different termination reason in your file, which might impact your ability to collect unemployment.

Severance language: If you're given a package and asked to sign an agreement, look carefully at the language to see if it might prohibit you from collecting unemployment. If necessary, insert a phrase stating the company will not protest your unemployment claim and make sure it is initialed by a company representative, then keep a copy. When in doubt, ask a lawyer to review the document.

Take notes: Some situations are sticky, like when you're being pressured to resign, or when working conditions are poor or your pay has been cut while workloads increase. You have the best chance of collecting if you can prove your assertion. Be sure and document the chain of events, noting each date, time and who was involved, in case you need the information in order to collect.

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