Unemployment law in Arizona provides temporary, limited compensation to persons who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own. The main purpose of the unemployment program is to give unemployed workers time find a new job without severe financial hardship.
Arizona’s unemployment laws are administered by the Department of Economic Security (DES). The law requires most employers in Arizona to pay an unemployment tax to a DES fund that pays unemployment benefits to employees who have been laid off from work. Independent contractors are excluded from receiving these benefits.
Think Before You Quit Work
Sometimes employers offer employees a chance to resign rather than be fired. Try to resist this, even though you will worry about how it will affect your reputation and ability to get another job. If you do decide to quit, make sure you document all episodes that point to a forced resignation.
If you simply hate your job, keep in mind that quitting impulsively is not a wise choice unless, of course, you have other employment lined up. You will not be able to get unemployment if you quit just because you hated the commute or some aspect of the job itself.
If the work itself is legal, falls within guidelines for your profession, and there’s been no illegal harassment, the unemployment laws in Arizona will consider your resignation a voluntary one and you will not be eligible for unemployment compensation.
Arizona Unemployment Law and Hearings
If you have been laid off from work, your last employer will be notified when you apply to DES for unemployment benefits. If your employer challenges your right to benefits, there will be a hearing to decide whether the facts of your discharge allows you to receive benefits.
The Burden of Proof
Although it’s upsetting when an employer challenges your application, keep in mind that the burden of proof always falls on the party who ended the employment. If you were laid off work, your former employer has to prove that a settlement offer or other documentation prevents you from receiving unemployment benefits and compensation.
If you quit your job because of workplace issues that amount to discriminatory or illegal behavior, you need to prove that you quit for good cause. Be prepared for your employer to deny everything.
If you were fired from work, your former employer must prove that s/he was justified in dismissing you because of misconduct, which will disqualify you from receiving benefits. Misconduct is defined as a “willful and wanton disregard of the employer’s legitimate business interests with evil or malicious intent.” Gross negligence can also disqualify an employee from getting benefits.
Cross Examining Witnesses
Each side can call and cross-examine witnesses. If you decide to represent yourself at your hearing, don’t ask questions that have already been settled. Use leading questions that require a statement and try to avoid “yes” or “no” answers. Do not give a hostile witness any chances to prove their point. Stay in control of the conversation.
Missing an Unemployment Hearing
I can’t stress it enough: make sure you (and your witnesses) have marked the hearing date and time and arrive early. Absence will usually result in the case closing in favor of the side that did show up.
You will need to show good cause to DES for a case to be reopened, particularly if it was closed because of failure to attend. If you didn’t get a Notice for the hearing and you have a log that shows you emailed and called to find out about the schedule, DES will probably reopen it for you.
If a witness didn’t show, provide a statement about the information s/he was supposed to provide and why it applies to your case.
However, if your failure to appear at the hearing was because you merely forgot to show up DES probably won’t reopen it.
Why You Should Hire an Employment Law Expert
Although attorneys are often the butt of jokes, the right one can serve a very real purpose by working to change the outcome of an unemployment hearing. My goal is to do my best to make sure my clients have their situations presented in the best possible light.
Don’t think of an attorney as someone who fixes mistakes but someone who helps you avoid making them. For example, if your settlement only pays out for a month or so, you are probably eligible for unemployment benefits regardless of what your employers tells you and DES. Don’t disqualify yourself regardless of how convincing a challenge may sound.
Like your former employer, you have a right to be heard. If you are facing a hearing or wondering if you qualify for unemployment, please contact my office for a consultation.