NPR reports that “there were 13,000 more first-time claims for jobless benefits last week than the week before…” (see the full story at
Employers in this economy are only too aware that unemployment claims can increase an employer’s cost of doing business. Generally, an employee is entitled to unemployment benefits under Oklahoma law if the individual loses his or her job. There are some exceptions to this general rule, however. For example, Oklahoma law provides that an individual is disqualified for unemployment benefits if he or she has been discharged for misconduct connected with his last work, if so found by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 40 Okla. Stat. 2-406. In addition, an individual is disqualified for benefits if the Commission finds that he or she left his or her last work voluntarily without good cause connected to the work. 40 Okla. Stat. 2-404.
Accordingly, it is in an employer’s best interest to document the reasons for termination any time an individual’s employment is terminated, so that employees who quit their jobs or are terminated for misconduct are prevented from collecting unemployment benefits. Documentation that was created at the time of termination can provide strong evidence that an employee was terminated for cause or that he or she voluntarily resigned. It is even better if the employee signs an acknowledgment of the reason for termination. In this regard, providing a space for the employee to respond to any disciplinary charge may encourage the employee to sign, as it provides him or her the opportunity to give his or her side of the story.
Contemporaneous documentation of termination can also prove invaluable if an employee is terminated and later claims that the termination was due to the employee’s protected status. If the employee is a member of a legally protected class and an adverse action was taken against him or her, as part of the claim the company will need to show that the adverse employment action was taken for a legitimate reason. If the employee file does not document a legitimate reason for disciplinary action being taken, the company may be exposed to liability. Often, an employee will claim that disciplinary actions were unfair or unwarranted, but if a review of the contemporaneous documentation of such actions does not reveal such complaints at the time the action was taken, it would make any post-litigation claim less plausible.