“I was laid off from my job, but then I received a letter that said I resigned. Are my unemployment insurance benefits at risk?”

Question: I was laid off from my job. I was called into my boss’s office on Monday morning. In the presence of another manager, I was told, “I have bad news for you: you are being laid off because your job doesn’t exist any more.” Then they sent me an email confirming my layoff.

The next day in my mail was a certified letter from my former boss saying “We accept your resignation.” That is 100% untrue. I would never resign, because my husband passed away 5 months ago, my son is in high school, and I have a mortgage.

I applied for unemployment insurance. I received a letter stating that they want to interview me about the real reason I’m no longer at my employer.

What do I do now?

An Appreciative Blog Reader
Roseville, CA

Answer: I don’t know why your former employer would take the position that you resigned. The most likely reason is to deny you severance payments that may be due you as an employee whose job was eliminated. In all companies I’ve dealt with – and that is probably thousands – severance is not paid to those who resign. The only other reason I can think of would be for your employer to hold down their unemployment insurance premiums, because employers are charged higher unemployment insurance premiums the more they lay people off.

There are four things I think you should do:

1. Contact Your Former Employer: What happened to you might just be the result of a mistake, or a miscommunication; someone might just have checked off the wrong box in error. That sort of thing happens all the time. If such an error is what caused your problem, it should be very easy to remedy, either by your employer contacting Unemployment Insurance officials, or by giving you a letter withdrawing their opposition to your collecting unemployment insurance.

2. If Your Employer Does Not Help, Write to the Employer’s Board of Directors: Just as you have written to me, go online and research who are the members of your employer’s Board of Directors, and write to them: they are the ultimate authority at your employer. Tell each of them that what has happened to you is dishonest, wrong, hurtful to you and your family. Ask for their help in resolving this problem. Make sure, though, you are respectful in all you write or say, because it is critical for your credibility and effectiveness.

3. Prepare Yourself for Your Upcoming Unemployment Interview: Think hard about how you can prove you did not resign, but rather that you were laid off. Make a list of each way you can show you were laid off: emails, possible witnesses, people you told that you were laid off shortly after it happened; even the many reasons you would surely not resign. Get your thoughts organized. Be prepared to share these in the interview that the Unemployment Insurance officials will conduct next week. You might even tell them that you would be happy to go back to your old job.

4. Finally, if You are Denied Unemployment, Ask for an Appeal: Most states provide that if you are turned down for unemployment in the initial screening, you are entitled to a hearing, or mini-trial, in front of an administrative judge, who is usually an attorney trained in these matters. You are entitled to have an attorney represent you at such a hearing, who can help you bring out the truth of what happened.

My experience in unemployment insurance matters is that employees who are truthful, and who take the time to organize their arguments, and who take the time to gather whatever evidence they can, usually prevail in these matters, as I hope you do.

I hope, too, that this has been helpful for you.

Best, Al Sklover

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