As reported by the Department of Labor [pdf], the unemployment rate remains high. Employees who lose their jobs cannot easily find a new job resulting in more individuals filing for unemployment compensation.
Many employers desire to contest unemployment claims while keeping costs down by utilizing the company’s managers or human resources department to handle the unemployment proceedings. However, in light of the economy and increased attention to the unemployment proceedings, employers should carefully consider the individual circumstances for each claim when making this decision.
It is becoming more common for attorneys who are considering filing a lawsuit on behalf of unemployed individuals to be involved at the unemployment proceedings resulting in more adversarial proceedings. These attorneys utilize the proceedings to obtain free information or discovery about the employer before filing lawsuits alleging such claims as discrimination or retaliation. During the proceedings, they can interrogate and assess the company’s witnesses at hearings scheduled before the unemployment agency. Thus, before contesting unemployment and proceeding through the administrative process particularly putting forth witnesses at any hearings where attorneys can question witnesses, employers are best advised to consult with legal counsel particularly when the former employee is in a protected class (e.g., age, race, gender) or engaged in protected conduct (e.g., whistleblower activity, made complaints of discrimination).