Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Unemployment Law in Pennsylvania: How Do I Know if I Quit or Was Fired?

NOTE:  He Does Not Say "You're Laid Off"

If you were the subject of an involuntary loss of employment over which you had no control, then you were terminated, laid off or the victim of a reduction in force. If that is the case, the key is to state in your initial application exactly what you were told by your employer was the reason you were no longer employed - as opposed to stating what you may believe is the "real reason" that you were let go.

If you chose, for whatever reason, to leave your job, and made that final decision through your words ("I quit!") or deeds (i.e. you did not report to work when scheduled for your next shift), then you quit your job. Even if you feel that you were forced to quit, the fact is you made the actual, final choice to stop coming to work, so that is a quit.  It does not mean that you won't get benefits, but that is an issue that will be decided down the road.

VIDEO: Did I WQuit or was I Fired?

NOTE:  If the employer did not tell you why you were being terminated, but did not say you were being laid off or let go due to a reduction in force, state that you were terminated, and that no reason was provided to you as to why.

What do I Say When I am Asked Why I am no Longer Employed When I Apply for PA Unemployment Benefits?

OK, this is the question that trips a lot of people up, for a variety of reasons.  The choices that you are provided are, in general:

*  Laid Off
*  Lack of Work
*  Reduction in Force
*  Termination
*  Quit

It is KEY that you accurately state in your aplication the reasons that you were told your employment was ending (if involuntarilly separated from employment) or that you quit (if that is what happened).  If you do not, you may find yourself in serious hot water down the road, as I discuss below.  Allow me to explain what each term on the application means, and why it is critical that you get this right when you file your initial application.

What Does it Mean to be Laid Off Under Pennsylvania Unemployment Law?

This is NOT a Lay Off
It means that you have been let go because your position is being eliminated through no fault of your own.  If you were laid off, your parting was bittersweet; there was no hostility, the employer did not accuse you of doing something wrong, there was not a dispute that preceded your loss of  employment.  Usually, a lay off occurs when the business changes direction so that your job is no longer needed (i.e. machine replaces you, company stops selling product you were selling, company stops manufacturing product you were making, etc.). 

Most people that get laid off are offered severance.

What Does it Mean to be Let go for Lack of Work Under Pennsylvania Unemployment Law?

Usually, this category applies to seasonal workers, who often expect to be called back to the job the following spring.summer.fall.winter.  Interestingly, I see a lot of people check off this category when they dispute the "real reason" they were fired.  Not a good idea, for reasons discussed below.

What Does it Mean to Lose Your Job Due to a Reduction in Force Under Pennsylvania Unemployment Law?

A RIF is a lot like a lay off, except it usually means that you were one of many people (think 30 or more) that were let go, all at the same time.  Again, no rancor, no hostility, no fault. Just caught up in the numbers.

Most people that are RIFfed are offered severance.

When Should I State That I Lost my Job Due to a Termination When Applying for Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits?

If the company told you that you were fired or being "let go" because of your alleged poor performance, or because you allegedly did something wrong, then you were terminated. It is that simple.  A termination is typically an unpleasant situation characterized by accusations, denials, etc.  If your employment ended with an unpleasant bang in a room where you were surrounded by HR, your manager, etc., and told you did something wrong, you were terminated (unless you elected to quit or resign in lieu of termination - which is usually a bad idea).

People that are terminated are sometimes offered severance, but just as often are not.

No Debate Here
When Should I State in my Application for Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits That I Quit my Job?

If you are no longer employed, and your former employer never EXPLICITLY stated that you were laid off, subject to reduction in force or terminated, then you quit your job.  Sometimes, a quit is clear, such as when an employee submits 2 weeks notice to take another job, or to move away, or because they are just plain unhappy with their current job.  Where it gets confusing is when a person feels that he/she was forced to quit, or when they quit because they thought they were about to be fired.

My advice is, do not quit your job if you are in the middle of a work dispute.  Let them fire you.  Otherwise, you may have a hard time getting unemployment benefits on the grounds that you quit your job without a legally sufficient reason.  There are circumstances when a person who quits is entitled to unemployment benefits, but it is generally much harder to get benefits if you quit than if you are terminated.

The Service Center Will Investigate Your Claim
What Happens if I State an Incorrect Reason for the Loss of my Job When I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Most people know, deep inside, as a matter of intuition perhaps, that if they state on their application that they were laid off, let go for lack of work or the victim of a reduction in force, they will automatically be granted benefits.  That is true, to a point.  You will automatically receive benefits if you state you were laid off, let go for LoW or RIFfed.  However, even as your first check is being cut by Unemployment, the UC Service Center is sending a questionnaire to your former employer, asking it why you are no longer employed.  If the employer says you were terminated, or that you quit, an investigation will commence.

This could lead to a Hearing before an Unemployment Referee and, if the employee loses he/she will be denied future benefits, and asked to repay the benefits already received.  To top it off, if it is determined that you received your initial benefits because you were untruthful in your initial application, you will be charged with an "at fault overpayment."  This is not a good thing.  In fact, it is a very bad thing.

In my experience, many people who are terminated believe that the reason they were told they were being fired is factually incorrect (i.e. they are innocent of the "crime"), or was pretextual (i.e. a lie designed to cover up some other "true" reason such as downsizing, discrimination, etc.).  People thinking in this way tend to select laid off, let lack of work or RIF as the reason they are no longer employed when completing their initial application.  They figure they will get immediate benefits, and maybe unemployment won't check out their story.

This can lead to major problems.  If you were terminated, recite in your application what the employer told you were the reasons for your termination, even if you believe they were lying, or incorrect.  Then, fight for your claim down the road by proving that you did not engage in willful misconduct, and are therefore entitled to unemployment benefits. In many cases, the final battle on this issue is at the Referee Hearing.

I have also on many occasions seen employees who quit their job due to a dispute state they were laid off, let go for LoW, RIFfed or terminated, on the grounds that, since they feel they were forced to quit, they were in fact fired. 

This is not a good idea at all.  It can lead to an at fault overpayment.  Instead, state that you quit and why, and fight it out down the road.

Philadelphia Are Employment Attorney Representing Employees

Assisting Pennsylvania Employees seeking Unemployment Since 1991
John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania. 

John typically represents employees who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.

Pennsylvania Employment Attorney Provides Free Telephone Consultations

If you are looking for an employment lawyer, and live in Malvern, Wayne, King of Prussia, Downingtown, Glenside, Doylestown, Radnor, Newtown Square, Exton, Philadelphia, West Chester, Skippack, Langhorne, Haverford, Nether Providence, Broomall, Drexel Hill, Reading or any of their surrounding towns, feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call.  I am always glad to spend some time with people via a free telephone consultation.

Need an Employment Labor Lawyer Near Philadelphia?

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of employment law, from wrongful termination, to wage and overtime claims, to discrimination and retaliation laws, to Family and Medical Leave

Click Here if you have questions about any aspect of Pennsylvania Unemployment Law, from willful misconduct, to voluntary quit, to Referee Hearings, to severance issues

Click Here to e-mail John directly.

Thanks for checking in with us.

No comments: