Under California Unemployment Insurance Code, “misconduct” associated with employment termination is defined as substantial, willful violation of a known employer rule or policy. This definition of misconduct is generally favorable to employees-claimant as it requires the violation to be serious and intentional or at least grossly negligent. The employer has a burden to prove misconduct in order to have the employee disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Ordinary mistakes, negligence, substandard performance, and lacking in qualifications are not considered misconduct and are therefore not grounds for denying unemployment benefits.
There are a two important things worth noting about misconduct:
- The employer might argue but the employer does not determine whether the reasons for your termination qualify as misconduct. They can only provide the facts about the reasons for your termination. EDD or CUIAB make their own independent determination of whether misconduct took place.
- Similarly, the employer has no power to have benefits awarded when you are otherwise not eligible. For instance, if you resign without “good cause”, the employer’s promises to not challenge your unemployment benefits application have no bearing on your eligibility for those benefits. If you resign without good cause, you will not be eligible to receive benefits regardless of your employer’s position and promises.
It’s not uncommon for an employee to be terminated for violating employer policy which he was not aware of (except obvious actions that would be considered violations or even crimes in any environment). For instance, if a sales clerk is fired for stealing money from a cash register, this kind of serious violation will most certainly disqualify him from unemployment benefits. On the other hand, if the same clerk is fired for using his employee discount on more items than allowed without ever being informed of what the limit is, this is likely not to be misconduct, since the policy in question must be known.
Every situation is unique and different, and you should discuss any issues you have with obtaining unemployment benefits with an experienced employment attorney,