For Employers

Willful Misconduct in Pennsylvania for Employers

If you are involved in a PA UC dispute, call PA UC Attorney Keith J. Williams Law today at 855-703-1134 for an aggressive, affordable representation!Have you terminated an employee due to Willful Misconduct?

Do you need to make a decision regarding whether or not to contest an employee’s PA UC claim?

Do you have an upcoming PA UC appeal hearing where Willful Misconduct is an issue?

PA UC Attorney Keith J. Williams can help. Employment in Pennsylvania is “at-will” meaning an employer can legally terminate the services of an employee at any time, without notice or reason. While it is the employer’s right to terminate an employee, unless the termination is due to Willful Misconduct, the employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits.

What is Willful Misconduct?

Willful Misconduct is the term used to deny Unemployment Compensation Benefits to employees who have been terminated from work because they did something wrong.

For employers in Pennsylvania, the most important thing to understand in cases of Willful Misconduct is that, as the employer, you have the burden of proof. In order to deny a former employee unemployment compensation benefits, you must prove your former employee’s Willful Misconduct. Even then, the employee may still be eligible for unemployment compensation if the employee can show the misconduct was justified or had good cause for his or her actions.

How Can an Employer Prove Willful Misconduct?

As a general principal in order to deny a former employee UC benefits for Willful Misconduct, the employer must show:

  • Wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest
  • Willful disregard of the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect
  • Negligence in such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design
  • Intentional neglect of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer

Common Willful Misconduct Situations

While most employees are legally entitled to Unemployment Compensation benefits, as an employer in Pennsylvania, you have the right to challenge these claims, specifically if an employee was terminated due to Willful Misconduct. Below are some of the most common Willful Misconduct situations:


SITUATION: Deliberate Violation of Employer Rules
 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

To show Willful Misconduct, you must prove that the rule exists, is reasonable, and is fairly and consistently applied. You must also prove that the employee was aware or should have been aware of the rule and that the employee deliberately broke the rule. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
  • Statements from witnesses
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show that the rule was unreasonable, rule violations were tolerated in the past, breaking the rule was an accident, or that the employee had good cause to break the rule due to:

  • Illness
  • Fear or injury
  • Physical inability to comply with the rule
  • Emergency
  • Ignorance of the rule
  • Vagueness of the rule

SITUATION: Absenteeism/Tardiness

Chronic absence or tardiness without a good reason constitutes willful disregard of the standards of behavior which an employer has the right to expect.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s Willful Misconduct if you can show that your former employee didn’t have “good cause” for the absence or tardiness, failed to report absence or tardiness according to company policy, and was adequately warned. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
  • Attendance records
  • Call-in sheets
  • Time sheets
  • Medical statements or doctor’s excuses
  • Statements from witnesses
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show good cause for the absenteeism or tardiness, such as:

  • Illness
  • Transportation problems
  • Family emergencies
  • Lack of child care
  • Bad weather/fear of injury
  • Religious observances
  • Civic duty

SITUATION: Failing to Meet Normal Standards of Behavior

As an employer, you can deny unemployment compensation benefits based on Willful Misconduct if your former employee was terminated due to failing to meet normal standards of behavior of which you have the right to expect, even if they are not expressly listed in your company’s rules.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s Willful Misconduct and your former employee is not entitled to UC benefits if the employee is terminated due to:

  • Sleeping on the job
  • Stealing
  • Fighting (unless self-defense)
  • Being intoxicated
  • Lying or falsifying information
  • Using unprovoked abusive or offensive language
  • Intentionally breaching confidentiality
  • Competing with your employer or aiding a competitor
  • Engaging in extremely negligent acts

Documents that can support your case include:

  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
  • Statements from witnesses
  • Police Reports
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show:

  • Standards are not common to all employees
  • Employee has good cause for violation of any rule
  • Conduct merely appears to be contrary to the employer’s interest
  • Just a suspicion of theft of the employee
  • Employee was merely named as a co-conspirator
  • The falsification does not directly effect the employee’s work
  • Failed to disclose the employee is looking for new employment
  • Employee can show self-defense

 

SITUATION: Attitude Toward Employer or Disruptive Influence

When an employee is terminated due to the employee’s attitude toward the employer or due to being a disruptive influence, to show Willful Misconduct the you must prove the specific conduct was adverse to the your interests.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

When an employee is terminated due to the employee’s attitude toward the employer or due to being a disruptive influence, to show Willful Misconduct the you must prove the specific conduct was adverse to the your interests. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Statements from customers or witnesses
  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show:

  • Statements were merely curt remarks
  • Employee has merely a “poor” attitude
  • Legitimate criticism of the employer
SITUATION: Damage to Equipment or Property

When negligence results in damage to equipment or property, damage caused by the employee to the equipment or property is not usually Willful Misconduct.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

If you’ve terminated an employee due to equipment or property damage, to show Willful Misconduct you must prove the damage was caused by the employee’s willful carelessness, negligence and intentional disregard of your interests, as well as the employee’s duties and obligations. You must also show that the employee would not have damaged the equipment had the employee used the reasonable care of which he or she was capable. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Photos of property damage
  • Repair estimates
  • Police reports
  • Written admissions
  • Statements from witnesses
  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show:

  • Damage was unintentional or inadvertant
  • Damage was caused in order to protect the employee or other employees from injury

SITUATION: Unsatisfactory Work Performance

Doing a poor job makes an employee ineligible for unemployment compensation, but only if the employee was not performing up to standards.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

If you’ve terminated an employee due to unsatisfactory work performance, to show Willful Misconduct you must prove the employee was capable of doing the work but intentionally disregarded company interests, did not perform up to standards and did not work to the best of his or her ability. In addition, to prove Willful Misconduct you must show documentation of warnings regarding the employee’s work performance. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
  • Statements from witnesses
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show that he or she has been working to the best of his or her ability and is simply not qualified or unable to learn the job.


SITUATION: Drug and Alcohol Testing

If you’ve terminated an employee due to failing or refusing to take a drug and/or alcohol test at your request, benefits can be denied due to Willful Misconduct.

 WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation law provides for the denial of benefits due to failure to submit to and/or pass a drug or alcohol test, provided the test is lawful and not in disagreement with an existing labor agreement. Documents that can support your case include:

  • Drug or alcohol test results
  • Chain of custody records and an explanation of such
  • Signed agreement to take random drug tests
  • Company handbook and/or policy
  • Acknowledgment of employee’s receipt of the policy
  • Records of verbal and written warnings
  • Statements from witnesses
 NOT WILLFUL MISCONDUCT:

It’s NOT Willful Misconduct and the former employee is eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits if the employee can show that the drug testing was unlawful, prohibited by a labor agreement, or the results were inaccurate. In addition, if the employee can show:

  • The drug/alcohol policy is unclear
  • That it was merely an order of alcohol
  • The employee was not under the influence while at work

Upcoming PA UC Appeal Hearing?

If you’ve already denied a former employee Unemployment Compensation due to Willful Misconduct, don’t assume the denial is final. Pennsylvania UC law provides for an appeals process. Your former employee has 15 days from the mailing date of the denial letter to file an appeal.

Should you have an upcoming PA UC appeal hearing where Willful Misconduct is an issue and need to make a decision regarding whether or not to contest the employee’s Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation claim, experienced PA UC Attorney Keith J. Williams can provide the guidance you need to make an informed decision. Mr. Williams will evaluate the claim, review the facts and quickly determine whether it’s in your company’s best interest to contest the claim or allow the benefits to proceed.

Ready to Challenge a PA UC Claim?

When it’s in your best interest to challenge an Unemployment Compensation claim due to Willful Misconduct, PA UC Attorney Keith J. Williams will skillfully represent your interests throughout the appeal process. He can also advise you of the steps you can take to minimize similar claims in the future.

If you’ve terminated an employee for Willful Misconduct and are now facing a PA Unemployment Compensation appeal hearing, contact PA UC Attorney Keith J. Williams at 855-703-1134 and schedule your FREE initial consultation today!

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