Unemployment benefits, otherwise known as Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Unemployment Compensation (UC), are typically available to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
In Wisconsin, due to the recent expiration of certain extensions and the legislative renewal of other extension programs, workers who find themselves unemployed today may qualify for up to 86 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits. In Wisconsin, the maximum benefit payment is a weekly payment of $363.
Unemployed workers must file applications for benefits and weekly claims with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Unemployment Insurance Division. After submitting an initial claim, cases are evaluated by adjudicators, otherwise called investigators, to determine applicant eligibility.
Unemployment cases are typically broken down into two broad subsets for an analysis of whether the applicant is eligible for benefits: “quits” and “discharges”. The two types of employment separation are then further evaluated to determine whether individuals qualify for benefits.
Employees who quit become subject to a determination about whether the reason for their resignation constituted “good cause attributable to the employer” or other permissible cause to quit. Good cause to quit is often found when the employee is forced to resign due to harassment; retaliation; instructions to break the law; reductions in pay and/or hours; relocation of the workplace; reassignment to an unsuitable position with materially different job tasks; and many other cases. It is the employee’s burden and responsibility to demonstrate to the Unemployment Division that they had good cause to quit their job and therefore deserve unemployment benefits. Employees may also be permitted benefits if they show that caring for a sick immediate family member caused the quit because the employer would not allow leave, whether or not FMLA leave was available.
Employees who are discharged must credibly rebut the employer’s attempts to prove that misconduct necessitated the discharge. In Wisconsin and many other states, the analysis comes down to the employee’s intent, which often that involves deciphering whether the employee was previously warned about the alleged behavior necessitating termination and whether the behavior itself rises to a the level of “misconduct”. As a general rule, deficient performance is not considered misconduct.
Each case is different, and it is not unusual for the investigator or adjudicator to make the incorrect initial determination for a number of reasons, including the lack of proper information or documentation. Incorrect initial determinations must be appealed to the Unemployment Division in Wisconsin. After an appeal, cases are certified for hearings before Administrative Law Judges, where evidence must be presented in a more formal setting.
Because of the nuances of unemployment laws and unemployment hearings, it is often beneficial for an employee to contact and engage an experienced unemployment lawyer for representation in cases when they receive adverse initial determinations or their employers appeal favorable unemployment decisions.
Attorney Nicholas M. McLeod is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have questions about unemployment insurance, please contact him at: [email protected]