What Does Misconduct Mean When It Comes to Unemployment?

Unemployment compensation benefits help qualifying individuals put food on the table after losing a job. States pay unemployment benefits based on the work history of the employee. Funds for state benefits come from unemployment compensation taxes paid by employers; the federal government pays additional benefits when unemployment is high. The employee must give a reason for separation from employment. If your employer fires you for misconduct, you may not qualify for unemployment compensation benefits.



Once you apply for unemployment benefits, the state unemployment office sends the information to your recent employer. If your most recent employer alleges misconduct as the reason for your departure, a hearing will determine if you qualify for unemployment benefits. The hearing officer at the unemployment compensation office makes the determination, which you can appeal if it is not in your favor.


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States must follow the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for unemployment compensation benefits. These provisions require that your departure from employment be "through no fault of your own" and the state interprets that federal guideline. You may be in a state that uses a lenient interpretation or one that regulates with a strict interpretation. Most states require that misconduct be an intentional act or violation of a known company policy.



Misconduct can be absence or tardiness if you fail to give notice and an adequate reason. Misconduct can be violation of a company rule, but the employer must prove that you knew of the rule and violated it anyway. Misconduct is not usually negligence, but requires gross negligence on your part. Arizona includes stealing, falsifying records, sleeping on the job, intoxication or disloyalty as misconduct. Texas Workforce Commission emphasizes the employer's need to give a final warning before discharge to leave no doubt that the employee knew the rules and violated them anyway.


Not Misconduct

Missouri courts distinguish between discipline or termination and the right to collect unemployment benefits. A termination may be justified, but the individual is still entitled to unemployment benefits without proof of misconduct. Errors in the workplace are not misconduct, as misconduct must be intentional. Minnesota gives examples of terminations that are not misconduct. This includes absence or tardiness for illness, inability to meet employer's performance standards or accidents or errors. California requires a causal relationship between the misconduct and firing. The employer cannot have an event of misconduct a year before firing and avoid unemployment compensation benefits based on that event. The firing must be related to the misconduct.