Unemployment Compensation and Other Concerns After Terminating an Employee

The purpose of unemployment compensation benefits is to provide claimants, who meet certain eligibility requirements, with a substitution for lost wages.  The main eligibility requirements for a claimant to obtain unemployment compensation benefits are: (i) the claimant’s unemployment is not his or her fault and (ii) the claimant is ready, willing, and able to obtain other employment. What our dental attorneys have found, however, is that many former dental employees abuse the system in an attempt to obtain benefits they are not entitled to.  Thus, Ohio dentists must realize that: (i) once your dental practice terminates an employee, the former employee can apply with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (“ODJFS”) to determine if the former employee is eligible for unemployment compensation benefits and (ii). what your dental practice should do if the employee has filed for benefits.

Importance of ODJFS Requests for Separation Information

After ODJFS receives an individual’s application for benefits, ODJFS will send a request to the dental practice for separation information.  The information that ODJFS attempts to obtain from the dental practice, includes:

1. Dates of employment;

2. Wages earned;

3. Reason for discharge;

4. Final event that caused discharge;

5. Rules or policies violated;

6. Details of discipline policy; and

7. Any applicable grievance procedure.

Once the dental practice receives the initial request, the dental practice attorneys and employment attorneys at Nardone Limited emphasize to all dental practices that it is very important to take the ample time to complete any of ODJFS’ requests for separation information accurately, fully, and with sufficient detail, even at the early stages of this process.  It is equally as important to seek legal guidance from counsel concerning your initial and any additional responses to ODJFS regarding separation information.  We understand that this sounds self-serving.  But, many dental practices complete these requests for information too quickly and without realizing the potential unintended consequences.

Unintended Consequences

First, the failure to provide (i) accurate, (ii) complete, and (iii) sufficient detail may cause ODJFS to rubber stamp the former employee’s application for benefits causing the dental practice to appeal.  Once you file an appeal the dental practice will then be forced to spend more time and incur additional expenses, which likely could have been avoided.  The fact is, if we believe the employee is not entitled to benefits, we will likely prevail at the first level.  But, only if the response is filled out properly with the proper legal standards in mind and presenting the material facts in a persuasive manner that makes it easy for ODJFS to rule in our favor.  You must allow your professionals to do their job.  While you may be a very good clinician, we as professionals must understand and recognize where are limitations begin and end.

Second, and probably more importantly, the information you provide to ODJFS might be used in other claims made by the former employee before another governmental agency, court, or tribunal. For instance, it is very common to have a former employee file a discrimination or harassment charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”) containing allegations related to the former employee’s employment or discharge. If you have provided ODJFS inaccurate information or inconsistent information, it makes defending the more serious OCRC charge more difficult.  For this reason, it is important that your responses to ODJFS are accurate and complete as well as consistent with any response to OCRC or any other governmental agency, court, or tribunal handling any matter related to the former’s employee’s discharge or employment with your office. It is also important to keep in mind that if you prevail on the unemployment compensation matter before ODJFS, you can argue that the determination by ODJFS, an unbiased third-party governmental agency, further supports your position that the former employee’s claims―with OCRC or other claims that the former employee has against you before another agency, court or tribunal―are baseless.

Policy Related to Responding to ODJFS Requests for Separation Information

The bottom line is that your dental practice should have a policy in place that requires any responses to ODJFS requests for separation information to be reviewed and authorized by the dentist after the dentist consults with legal counsel regarding the response. Consulting with legal counsel will ensure that the response contains the necessary buzz words and other protections for ODJFS purposes.

Contact Nardone Limited

If you would like the help of an experienced employment attorney to: (i) draft a discriminatory harassment policy and corresponding complaint procedures for your dental practice; (ii) provide discriminatory harassment training for your practice staff; and/or (iii) assist you with responding to a charge of discrimination or harassment from the OCRC, you should contact Nardone Limited.  Nardone Limited, a Columbus, Ohio law firm, provides specialized dental practice representation across Ohio. The dental practice attorneys and employment attorneys at Nardone Limited represent dentists in such diverse areas as: (i) buying and selling dental practices, (ii) asset purchase agreements, (iii) employment contracts and noncompete agreements, (iv) labor and employment, (v) human resources, (vi) Ohio Dental Board proceedings, (vii) lease agreements, (viii) real estate purchase agreements, (ix) tax planning, and (x) estate planning. Contact Nardone Limited today to discuss your practice and how Nardone Limited may help you.