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States Clamping Down On Unemployment Claims

empty office

Recent cases from two different states suggest that courts are taking a harder line against employees seeking unemployment benefits after they leave.

In a case out of Missouri, a part-time Walmart fitting room associate was fired after missing five days of work in a month, which exceeded the number of permissible absences in a six-month period.

The state’s unemployment division denied her unemployment claim, despite her assertions that her absences were due to illness, car trouble and bad weather.

On appeal, the worker argued that Walmart failed to show she willfully violated its policy and thus she should get benefits.

But the Missouri Court of Appeals pointed out that the state legislature had tightened unemployment standards six years earlier by eliminating a requirement that the employer show that rules violations were deliberate.

The other case, from Rhode Island, involved a man who spent 39 years working in a job that involved unloading trucks and heavy lifting. In 2017, he accepted a voluntary retirement offer extended to all employees over 65. His job was never in jeopardy and the company wasn’t planning layoffs.

A year later, the man applied for unemployment, saying he only accepted the one-time severance package because the work was getting more difficult and unsuitable for him. But the review board denied his application for lack of evidence that he couldn’t perform his duties or that he had no reasonable alternative but to resign. Because he couldn’t show he left for “good cause,” the board said, he was ineligible for benefits.

A state court judge upheld the denial, saying his claims that the job was “getting harder” weren’t enough to show good cause.