As if being laid-off and being hung up on repeatedly by an overloaded unemployment benefits phone system was bad enough, employers are now filing challenges against claims by their former employees at a higher rate than ever. Back in February I reported on data from the Urban Institute showing that fully one quarter of all claims filed by newly-unemployed workers were being challenged.
If you file for unemployment and your claim is denied but you believe you are eligible, fight back.
More than a quarter of unemployment claims challenged by employers
The message to workers is be prepared. With nearly 5 million Americans on unemployment, the number of employers challenging the unemployment claims of their former employees is on the rise. Read the story in the Washington Post, or watch the video on ABC News.
Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute has crunched the numbers from the Department of Labor. He finds that today, employers are challenging about one-quarter of all unemployment claims. That's double the rate from the early 1980s. Take a look at what he found:
Government pays unemployment benefits, so why would employers challenge claims by their former employees? Because the unemployment tax rate paid by employers is based on the number of employees they lay off. More unemployment claims by former workers means they'll pay a higher rate. So there's an economic incentive to challenge the claim. Today, a business can hire companies like TALX in St. Louis to help them file and manage their former employees' unemployment claims.
Although the number of challenges being filed by employers is on the rise, Vroman found that the number they ultimately win has stayed the same. In fact, employers lose about two-thirds of the time.
Remember - if you're fired for misconduct or if you quit, you're not eligible for unemployment benefits. Most employers use one of those claims as the basis for their challenge.
On Feb 12, the Washington Post invited readers to ask Vroman questions about their unemployment situation. Click here for a transcript of their conversation. If you want to know about the problems and confusion people are facing when filing unemployment, read some of these questions. Kudos to the WaPo for offering this opportunity.
If you're concerned about being laid off - or if you are laid off - here are some tips:
- Get it in writing. Get a letter from your employer explaining that you've been laid off.
- If you have copies of former reviews saying you're a great employee, keep those
- If there are witness to your being laid off, get their names and contact info
- Never sign anything that says you waive your right to unemployment benefits
- Always fill out your unemployment claim completely, honestly and accurately. An error anywhere on your form could lead to you being denied benefits.
- Don't quit or even pretend that you quit after being laid off in order to save face
- If you know you were laid off due to no fault of your own and a former employer challenges your claim, fight back