When terminating an employee from a dental practice, every employer must be prepared to deal with the potential consequences. Regardless of whether you have documented the cause for termination, every terminated employee may exercise their right to file for unemployment benefits. While a former employee has an absolute right to file for these benefits, that does not necessarily mean that the claim will be an easy win for either party or that you should even oppose it. In fact, in many cases, it is more advantageous to simply forfeit your participation in these disputes. Discussed below are several reasons why fighting unemployment claims might not be worth the trouble.
A winning claim in your favor can lead to a lawsuit down the road
The main reason we see dental practices fight unemployment is because it is personal—which means it is personal to the ex-employee also. A decision in your favor will only antagonize your ex-employee further, at which point they may seek legal counsel who will then analyze missteps (often at no cost) at any point in his or her employment with your practice, such as missed meal breaks or unpaid overtime.
The return on the potential money saved from an unemployment claim is not worth the opportunity costs lost while fighting unemployment claims
Unemployment claims are timely, drawn out processes. They involve calls and meetings that are extremely exhaustive. The gain from winning a contested unemployment claim is small compared to the opportunity costs you forfeit attending meetings and hearings. Your skillset is by far more profitable when you are servicing patients. It’s truly not worth your time!
Your dental practice may not be responsible for a short-term employee’s benefits
While the former employee may have filed for unemployment benefits, you may not be responsible for those benefits. If that employee has been employed with you only for a short time, it is possible that the unemployment benefits claim will be assigned to that person’s prior employer. As a result, you and your dental practice will not be responsible for those benefits.
Your dental practice does not pay for unemployment benefits claims directly
Part of your dental practice’s taxes is paid into an unemployment fund. This fund consists of a pool of monies, not solely contributed to by your practice. Should an employee be terminated and file for unemployment benefits, he or she can be awarded the benefits out of this fund. Therefore, even if your former employee does file for unemployment benefits, it does not necessarily mean that your practice will be directly responsible for these payments.
Building good will and maintaining existing employee relationships might be worth the sacrifice
For example, if you have terminated an employee in a questionable or complicated incident, it can be perceived as unfair. This means if you provoke the situation by denying the former employee income during a difficult time, your remaining employees may resent and distrust you as an employer. Even when the situation is not complicated, your current staff may think “what if that were me?” Additionally, relationships are often built among your team, creating cliques and biases. Fighting the claim might alienate your other employees that were friendly to or connected to that person. By choosing not to fight the unemployment benefits claim, you will have a better chance at maintaining the relationships with the employees that continue to work in your practice, and create good will among your staff.
Knowing the implications of a filed claim and your rights as an involved party will allow you to make a sound decision when evaluating your next steps. The process of contesting unemployment claims not only costs you time and money, but also virtually guarantees that your former employee will become an enemy. This results in possible lawsuits that could have been avoided, and possible resentment and distrust of current employees.
If you feel you may need assistance with unemployment claims you should consult with legal counsel or a human resources expert who can best advise you in your current situation.