How important is documentation in an unemployment case?

Elsewhere in this FAQ, we have talked about the importance of keeping records of all disciplinary actions.  Let's address the best way to prepare these records.  It is important that you learn to record facts rather than conclusions.  For example, you should record that a worker's speech was slurred and that he or she fell against the wall, rather than just recording your conclusion that they were drunk.  Incidentally, the best way to establish that a worker was drunk is a blood or urine test.

Don't be tempted into recording conclusions just because it is easier.  For example, it is necessary to record that a worker was absent due to illness on April 24th and then absent again on April 28th due to child care problems and then again on May 3rd due to car troubles; it is not sufficient to simply write that the worker was excessively absent.

You should try to avoid using words and phrases such as bad attitude.  Instead, your documentation should describe what happened to cause you to reach the conclusion that someone had a bad attitude.  For example, if a worker slammed the cabinet doors so hard that one of the hinges came off, you should record that incident.  Whereas the slamming of a cabinet door is easily proven, it is virtually impossible to prove that a person's state of mind was negative.

Your documentation should be specific enough to allow all readers to form the same mental picture of the incident you are recording.  For example, if you were to record that a worker was discharged due to "misconduct on the floor," three readers of your documentation would likely have three different mental pictures of the final incident.  If, on the other hand, you were to record that the worker struck his supervisor over the left shoulder with a beef tongue (see the real-world examples), everyone would be able to picture this incident in a similar way.

Disclaimer:  The information contained in the examples given on this page is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice.  There are no guarantees that a particular state unemployment adjudicator will rule as others have in the cited examples.  Individuals seeking legal advice concerning the handling of similar matters should consult with their attorney, rather than relying upon the information given.

The purpose of this document is to educate clients and potential clients about unemployment compensation. While some effort has been made to address the many differences in laws and procedures in the 53 different jurisdictions (each of the fifty states plus Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands), the primary purpose of this presentation is to review some basic principles shared by many jurisdictions.