Unemployment Benefits: Rights, Objections, Appeals

Unemployment benefits — referred to statutorily as”employment security” — is in place to provide a safety net for persons unemployed through no fault of their own.  The law is in place to provide temporary funds to individuals whose jobs have been terminated for reasons outside of their control (e.g., the employer going out of business, downsizing, etc.). The source of the funds is tax revenue imposed on employers.
Although unemployment benefits are liberally construed and awarded, they can be denied for a number of reasons. The most common way they are denied is when the employer objects to the ex-employee’s claim for benefits and asserts that the reason for the employee’s unemployment was his/her own misconduct. Misconduct is defined by statute as:
[A]n act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest, a deliberate violation of the employer’s rules, a disregard of standard of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee, or negligence in such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design or show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer. [Emphasis added] R.S.Mo. § 288.030.1(23).
Misconduct is, as the statute suggests, a relatively high bar to prove because of its egregious nature. The employer has the burden of proving that the claimant was discharged for misconduct; specifically, the employer must show that the claimant willfully violated the rules of the employer or that the claimant knowingly acted against the employer’s interest.
Given the sometimes nuanced factual and legal inquires that occur in unemployment proceedings, there is an intricate appeals process. There are three (3) potential appeals, with the third appeal being in a Missouri Appellate Court.
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