One of my employees is leaving because her husband is being transferred to another state. Now I discover she has already filed for unemployment. In fact, I have already received the notice from the Unemployment Agency. What’s the best way to handle this situation?
It’s a common scenario: you hire an employee for a position and after their training period they continuously make mistakes and do not meet your performance expectations. The poor performance could be for a number of reasons: they need further training, they have personal distractions keeping them from performing up to par, or maybe they’re just not the right person for the position at your company. So you decide to terminate their employment and find a new employee to take over their job responsibilities. Without proper documentation to support your termination, you could be facing a number of potential liabilities.
We’ve heard a number of managers refer to probationary periods and make statements such as “we can terminate them within the first 90 days of employment because they’re in a probationary period.” Even in an at will employment relationship (for the states which recognize at will employment), termination during a probationary period could still result in potential liability for your company in the event of an unemployment claim or other lawsuit (discrimination, harassment, etc).
Whether an employee has worked for your company for 1 day or 10 years, there is still potential liability. For example, in Michigan, the wages for the last five quarters at all jobs the employee has worked are used when determining benefit eligibility. So even if the person was only employed by your company for two weeks or two days, they could still be eligible for benefits if their wages from all employers in the last five quarters meet the minimum threshold.
A common assumption among employers is that having a probationary period at the beginning of employment provides a safe-guard in terms of unemployment. For example, a company might have a 90 day probationary period for all new hires. A manager’s assumption is that they can terminate an employee during that 90 day window and the employee would be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because they are still a “probationary” employee.
This is not the case.
A sick, injured or pregnant employee can qualify for unemployment benefits when: