After an employee loses his or her job and applies for unemployment benefits, Employers have many different motives for challenging the employee’s right to unemployment benefits.  One motivation, for example, is that employers who repeatedly terminate employees are levied a higher unemployment benefits tax rate; accordingly, employers have an incentive to challenge an employee’s right to unemployment benefits simply to avoid the tax increase associated with terminating employees.  From the employee’s perspective, the key to fighting back against the employer is understanding how a favorable determination entitling an employee to unemployment benefits is made.

As a general rule, employees are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits when their employer has terminated them from their job (as opposed to an employee voluntarily quitting the job).  However, employees that are terminated because of their own misconduct may risk losing some or all of their unemployment benefits.  Not surprisingly, employers often challenge a claim to unemployment benefits by alleging that the employee engaged in some form of misconduct.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (i.e., the “DLLR”) categorizes misconduct in three ways: simple misconduct, gross misconduct and aggravated misconduct. Each respective category carries with it a stiffer penalty.  In this blog we will discuss termination for simple misconduct.

Simple misconduct may include violating company policy or merely neglecting one’s job duties.  By way of example, in a written opinion issued by the DLLR Board of Appeals, an employee was found to have committed simple misconduct when he was regularly late to work and repeatedly violated the employer’s attendance policy in the face of multiple warnings.  The employee’s tardiness was found to be “simple misconduct,” despite the fact that the employee asserted that there were “legitimate” reasons for his being late, including a need to provide care for a child who suffered from a mental disability.  Bush v. Becton Dickinson and Company, 2084-BR-94.

The penalties for even simple misconduct can be harsh.  An employee found to have been terminated for simple misconduct may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for between 10 and 15 weeks from his last day of work, depending on the degree of the misconduct.

As demonstrated by the above case, simple misconduct can be easily committed.  In fact, an employee can even commit simple misconduct unintentionally.  See DLLR v. Hider, 449 Md. 71 (1998).  Employees must therefore familiarize themselves with their employers’ policies and ensure they remain in compliance with them; otherwise, employees risk the possibility of committing misconduct and jeopardizing their future entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits.

If you are interested in learning more about unemployment benefits, the process for obtaining unemployment benefits, or your rights in this regard, please contact our law firm to speak with an attorney.