The Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012 took effect on September 1, 2012. The Act significantly expands the definition of misconduct for the purposes of determining eligibility for unemployment compensation in Tennessee. A claimant that is discharged for misconduct is not eligible for unemployment benefits.
“Misconduct” includes, but is not limited to, the following conduct by a claimant:
(i) Conscious disregard of the rights or interests of the employer;
(ii) Deliberate violations or disregard of reasonable standards of behavior that the employer expects of an employee;
(iii) Carelessness or negligence of such a degree or recurrence to show an intentional or substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or shows an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employee’s employer.
(iv) Deliberate disregard of a written attendance policy and the discharge is in compliance with such policy;
(v) A knowing violation of a regulation of this state by an employee of an employer licensed by this state, which violation would cause the employer to be sanctioned or have the employer’s license revoked or suspended by this state; or
(vi) A violation of an employer’s rule, unless the claimant can demonstrate that:
(a) The claimant did not know, and could not reasonably know, of the rule’s requirements; or
(b) The rule is unlawful or not reasonably related to the job environment and performance;
“Misconduct” also includes any conduct by a claimant involving dishonesty arising out of the claimant’s employment that constitutes an essential element of a crime for which the claimant was convicted.
“Misconduct” does not include:
(1) Inefficiency, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity;
(2) Inadvertence or ordinary negligence in isolated instances; or
(3) Good faith errors in judgment or discretion.
In light of this expanded definition employers should make sure their rules of conduct and policies are distributed to all employees. Additionally, when responding to a claim for unemployment benefits employers should specify the rule or policy that was violated and how the claimant was made aware of it. Finally, if the conduct did not clearly violate a rule or policy employers should specify how the conduct disregarded the rights or interests of the employer, or how it violated reasonable standards of behavior that the employer had the right to expect.
Spending a few extra minutes filling out the response to the unemployment claim will hopefully save employers thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.