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Jan03

Terminating an Employee with Due Cause

I am a solo practitioner with one full time and one part time employee in a Midwestern state. I hired a MA, medical assistant, on 9/28/2015 out of dire need. She missed her work for a week within 3 weeks of her employment due to her illness right after a mutually agreed upon day off to be with her 27 year old son for his elective surgery. I kept her because of scarcity of suitable employees. She was terminated on 12/8/2015 after a second event of potentially deadly mistakes, air embolism, and mixing medications wrong, created three times higher concentration which could have been fatal had I not discovered and intervened. Furthermore, my patients complained that she made them feel so insecure as she talked to herself aloud constantly. My question is 1) Is this justifiable cause for terminating an employee who was on 90 days probation period? 2) Am I chargeable for her unemployment benefit? 3) If so, how long a period do I expected to pay? She was to sit for her certification exam scheduled on December 1st but she decided to withdraw because she felt she was not ready for it. I feel like I would have to close the practice if I am required to keep every incompetent employee.

In just about every state employer-employee relationships are presumed to be at-will unless a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract state otherwise. At-will means that either an employer or employee can terminate the relationship with or without cause or notice.

Even in the states that don’t automatically assume an employment relationship is at-will an employer is still able to terminate an employee for just cause. Basically, just cause is a non-discriminatory business related reason to terminate an employee. Unexcused absences in most cases warrant terminating an employee. More notably, gross misconduct such as making mistakes that endanger a patient’s life is absolutely grounds for immediate termination.

Each state has its own eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits. In general, unemployment insurance provides unemployment benefits to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Involuntary separation can be interpreted differently based on whether the employee was laid off, resigned, or was fired.

An employee who was laid off or part of a reduction in the workforce will be eligible for unemployment.

It’s commonly thought that an employee who resigned will not qualify for unemployment. However, a worker who resigned for good cause, meaning continuing employment would actually have been an increased hardship, may receive unemployment.

Any employee can file for unemployment benefits even ones who were terminated. A terminated employee may receive benefits if he was fired for minor or unintentional violations such as tardiness. Major misconduct such as harassment, stealing or major safety violations will generally render a worker ineligible for unemployment.

Though it appears the employee in this situation wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits due to her gross misconduct, it’s impossible to make a definitive determination. Unemployment divisions have been lenient with eligibility requirements in the past few years. It is up to the individual to file for unemployment benefits and the unemployment division to consider her eligibility.

If she is deemed eligible, it’s then up to you as the employer to appeal the decision and prove ineligibility. You would then need to provide evidence showing the employee’s gross misconduct, such evidence may simply be your statement that the employee incorrectly mixed a patient’s medications causing a potentially fatal situation. Focus on the employee’s major infractions and the potential deadly consequences of them not her absenteeism.

Most states also limit eligibility to those whose past earnings meet a minimum threshold during a specified base period. The individual’s work history during the entire base period, which is usually a 12-month period, is considered, not just the most recent employer. So, even if she is deemed eligible for benefits, the employers involved would pay proportionate amounts.

HTH.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 at 8:10 pm and is filed under
Termination.
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