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Can I unemployment if I have been fired for excessive personal use of the email/computer without prior warning?

by LR
(Illinois)

I was working for a company for 3 months. I had had a couple of informal meetings with my immediate supervisor over lunch (nothing was ever documented in writing that I saw) about how they needed me to improve a couple of performance based issues (which were corrected and no longer an issue before my termination).


However, I was still brought into the owner's office by the owner and my immediate supervisor a couple of weeks later, a couple of days before my 100% company-paid health benefits would have kicked in, and was told that they knew that I was unhappy at the company and that I had the choice to either resign or be let go. I told them that I was not unhappy and had never said that I was, had just been frustrated with how things had been handled regarding certain situations within the company, but had also not made that widely known. That is when the owner told me that if I did not resign, he would say that I was discharged for misconduct and using the internet excessively. I told him that the only times that I had used the internet that I could recall were during my hour lunch break (which was allowed and which my supervisor knew that I was doing), that there may have been a couple of times during the work day when I had sent a personal email, but nothing that had been excessive.

He refused to go into detail, refused to show me what he was referring to as far as times I had accessed email or the internet, so all I have to go by is the time stamps on my sent and received personal email account (I did not use the company email system). I had never been warned about my internet usage, and my immediate manager had been aware that I accessed the internet during my lunch break and emailed through my personal email account. She had even instructed me to look up information for personal use during company time on a couple of occasions. Company policy in the handbook states that you can use the internet for personal use, just that if it gets to be excessive then you will be warned. If you do not correct it once you have been warned, then you may be let go. However, I was never warned.

I have already spoken to the unemployment claims representative about all of this but he did not give me any indication one way or the other what his determination would be. It is my opinion that I should be able to receive unemployment because I thought that use of the internet for personal use was okay as long as it was not excessive (per instruction and per company policy), and I was not aware that what I was doing was considered "excessive", so therefore it was not willful misconduct. Am I thinking right?


Hi LR,

Perfectly!!

Come on back and let us know what the determination .. determines:)

Chris

Comments for Can I unemployment if I have been fired for excessive personal use of the email/computer without prior warning?

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response
by: Anonymous

The hearing was last friday and I am waiting on the decision in the mail.

The social media policy was included as evidence but my name and signature was not on the policy



Then you should let me know how that decision comes down and the reasoning used in the hearing decision because you would know better than I, your impression about what the hearing officer might find.

I think, even if you didn't sign a social network policy .. it comes down to common sense and what the comment actually was, and whether any similar "reasonable person" (the standard) would of, could of reasonably been expected to know making the comment, whether on a social network .. or not, would/could of caused harm to the employer's business interest.

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Fired for violating social media policy
by: PAG6

I was fired for inappropriate comments made on a social networking site that I often went to during the day for information that was related to my job.

1. I never received a warning or any other disciplinary action
2. I never signed a social media policy
3. I was an employee for 9 months and had a reputation as a good worker
4. I never received a new employee handbook


I was not eligible to receive unemployment compensation from the job I was let go from because i was only there 9 months. So I am trying to receive UC benefits from a EUC claim from a previous employer. I had my hearing and stressed all the points above and had to do a phone hearing since I found another job. The employer did bring evidence to the hearing that I made several posts on the site for several months but again it never stopped me from doing my job and I was never warned by anyone

What chance do I have to win benefits



Since you already lost the hearing, I'd say none.

Regardless of whether you think you're trying to collect benefits based upon BP wages paid by a different employer, it is the last separation from a job that basically rules over a claim.

The one thing you failed to mention in your "argument" for benefits is what the "inappropriate" comments made on a social network .. where you went to do a part of your job apparently, happened to be.

The employer, and the hearing officer must of thought that whatever they were, any reasonable person would of known they had the potential for causing harm to your employers interest.

Was the social network policy included in the employee handbook? Did you sign an acknowledgement form to prove receipt of said handbook?

And what do you think, was your comment so egregious that if you had a business and one of your employees made it in public .. would you be upset?

Inappropriate, is a strong word and you left us all clueless as to make our own determination about your comments in relationship to that word.

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Fired for Internet policy but write up had more
by: Newmgtegotrip

I had gotten denied benefits for my result termination of internet policy. But what was lead to it is hard to prove but yet harrassment. My "verbal" warning for social site was said and I listened that day i was sent to a room for a project with no computer. I wasnt on it all day. Then they pulled me in the office for something entirly different I have a meter that records only frequencies for rating company to earn extra money and "he didnt like it" said not to wear it so I didnt/. It was in my purse ZIPPED UP in my purse and it shuts off anyways when no motion is occured. When I wasnt in the room they obviously went through my opurse cause in the office they said I told you not to bring it in here. How would they know if it was in my purse zipped up. Next week they pulled me in said I was on a social site again (which I was not only at home on MY computer) and hearsay about not having a positive attiude and sone other stuff not relavant to which I had gotten fired for so I refused to sign it. This is after the proerty Mgr Had harrassed me said "im your father and she's your mother you just a child so you have to listen to her" The next few hours I was crying and upset cause they were trying to write me up over nothing. They were rude isloated me from everything. When I refused to sign the write up I heard them behind theor closed doors "she refused to sign it (on the phone) so what do we fire her for? I went to lunch and came back my computer was gone. She said I have a 450 page log of site you should have not been on. I was in marketing so I did reasearch of multiple things to get ideas for the facilities and events. I was thrown into a mgr, position when they fired BOTH property mgr and Marketing Mgr. and retireved new ones. I was expected to do it on 8.50 hour! Also Just because my PC was on sites doesnt mean they could prove it the computer WAS NOT password protected and no log on process (everyone new the passwords) I did file a harrassment case to the upper mgt and all they said you shold have known you were getting fired we will look into it and hung up on me. Meanwhile I never seen any proof of this log,And I also refused to sign the termination papers. DO I even have a chance off appeal? The only proof I have Is a email on MY email saying they want to interview someone for MY job when I wasnt even fired yet.....





Slam dunk appeals are the rarity. Chances are what most people have .. when they represent themselves effectively .. which includes knowing how to cross examine an employer witness.

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STRESSED!!!!
by: Anonymous

I was put on administrative leave without pay for illegal use, misuse of city computers and electronic equipment. All I was doing was looking at various home page news links (i.e. yahoo, msn, bing), job websites for my brother, and sports scores....nothing crazy. I was asked how long was I looking online for and sometimes I would leave the browser open and sometimes would close out the browser so it depends on how much usage I was actually using. Also, I was shown browsing of the internet by my coworkers and seen them do the same. Now I am being put on admin leave and they aren't even being investigated. What should I do??? I need to be paid but don't want loose my job either. I was honest with them during the preliminary investigation and told them that I did use the computer but only for those websites stated earlier. I read the employee regulations and it said that violation of the computers will result in an employee to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Will I be able to recieve unemployment??? If terminated, can I still use them as a past employer???
Thanks,
TooYoungToBeThisStressedOut!



Guess what would have been more useful in addition to a rundown of what you might have been doing to violate the employer's Internet/computer use policy ..

THE EMPLOYER'S INTERNET/COMPUTER USE POLICY.

As far as being shown that co-workers were also misusing the employer's internet/computers in violation of the policy and that you were unfairly singled out for a "not uniform enforcement of the policy" ..

How will you prove that? Any co-worker's willing to be your witness and admit to their blatant misuse?

You most likely do have good cause to be stressed.

And I'm no resume expert, but depending on how long you worked for them .. I would think a blank spot on your resume would be useless.

If it were me .. I would hire a professional resume service to "minimize" the damage ..

Personally, I cannot write an effective resume for myself .. although I wouldn't find it that hard to do for others.

For myself there's just too much tooting of your own horn that goes on in a resume and I think it's a hard line to walk between bragging and arrogance and confidence and matter of fact presentation of your goals and accomplishments.

In other words .. it's an ego issue.

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fired for internet work policy
by: Anonymous hard worker

Me being a funny guy with a great sense of humor and a thick skin, have sent jokes and very innocent pics located on a google search to various people at work from a work computer. They were only intended for the people I sent them to and they in turn found them as funny as I did. Company then used it against me to terminate my employment.

They were sent and received by those they were intended for and no more.

Should I have been terminated or given a warning for this particular incident?

Thank you...



HARD WORKER




Hi hard worker,

It depends entirely on what the employer's policy states. Use of company internet/email is at the discretion of the employer.

What an employer wouldn't want to do though is not "uniformly enforce" the policy in all instances regardless of who might have broken the rule that everyone was made aware of when they received the employee handbook.

What I'm trying to say is .. since you were fired the most important piece of missing information is the actual rule used to terminate your employment.

Chris



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I was fired for computer use at work
by: Anonymous

I was fired for computer use at work with no prior warning that I could get fired. I signed a paper in my work policy booklet that stated not to go on the internet during work times but it didn't state anything about getting fired for using the computer at work. I was spoken to on June 2nd and advised that they caught me on the computer at times that I shouldn't be and I had signed a form on May 26th stating I knew not to go on the computer. Well on May 28th, I did look at various websites throughout the day and my boss went back and researched what sites I had looked at and printed them out for me to look at and then let me go. Do I stand a chance of getting unemployment based on not being warned that if I did use the internet at work that I could ge fired?


Hi Anonymous,

There's always a chance:)

I think if you signed an acknowledgment of receipt of the rule, it should have mentioned the consequence as well. It would be nice to know what state you're in .. some states are bigger sticklers for the details.

What I'd like to see from an employer .. to prove misconduct is something in that policy you signed, that let's the employee know that they were also made aware that a one time violation of the policy would be cause for termination.

Unemployment hearing officers like to know that the employer made an employee "aware a violation of a policy would jeopardize their job".

Since you said the policy you signed for did not mention any consequence, it is reasonable that you would assume it fell under the "progressive discipline policy".

At least .. that's what I think.

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Determination Details
by: LR

Okay, I finally found out what the determination said. It said that I was discharged for violating a known company internet and email policy. That it was a reasonable and well known policy and was thus misconduct. It did not say anything about excessive computer use, just that I violated a company policy. It does not spell out exactly what the policy was, so I am still not sure what "policy" my former employer sent to them.


Hi LR,

Precisely:)
So for my appeal letter, I should just write that I received my unfavorable determination for the claim that I filed on April 8th and would like to request an appeal hearing. I was not fired for misconduct because company policy stated that personal use of the internet and email systems was permitted. I was never warned or told otherwise.

Think that's sufficient to start? And then in the hearing I can bring up the names and dates of people who told me it was okay, who knew about it, when my manager knew about the different incidents and did not warn me, the other people who accessed company internet and were not disciplined or let go, the company policy, etc?

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Unemployment Appeal Letters vs. Unemployment hearings
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Hi LR,

Your strategy sounds sound, but I feel the need to again say something about the difference between an unemployment appeal letter and an unemployment appeal hearing.

It is of course wise to first check out what a state says the appeal letter must contain, but it does not require you to reveal every detail about the information you will present for the hearing either through testimony, or documentation. You can and should submit documentation as per the instructions on the hearing notice.

An overly detailed appeal letter allows the other side to develop strategies including gathering up the correct witnesses to rebut information you present.

Claimants win when the employer isn't well prepared. An employer or their rep scour your appeal letter for weaknesses in your case. Revealing all details in an appeal letter is sort of like laying your poker hand face up on the table. It helps your opponent determine how they will bet.

So obviously, the statement above wouldn't hold true if when you have irrefutable information to present. If this is the case and you are CERTAIN the state will have no choice, but to find in your favor .. this technique may serve the purpose of actually disuading the other side from even showing up to the hearing .. which could be a good thing.

When a claimant acts as their own legal representative at an unemployment hearing and make no mistake .. you are .. they need to somewhat detach them self from the situation in order to represent them self well. They need to understand what it is they must prove.

LR, I think you have grasped this concept very well and will do well. You may even understand what I'm trying to say here, but I write my answers with the idea that someone not wanting to "ask" a question may get value from it.

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More Information...
by: LR

When I was hired, I was given a salary lower than expected and was compensated for it by being told that once my 90 day probationary period was over, I would receive 100% company paid health benefits. My discharge came 4 days before my benefits would have come into effect, and at the time of my discharge I had not received any kind of enrollment paperwork, which leads me to believe that all of this was "planned."

Three weeks before my discharge is when my manager took me to lunch and had the talk with me about adjusting how I performed one of my duties. I complied and have proof of this. At the end of the next week, the owner of the company asked me to come into his office and said that he had received a complaint about me from one of the consultants. He asked the consultant to come into the office, and the consultant then said that the only issue he had with me was that I did not remember all of the names of the people at the companies he worked for. Again...not misconduct. However the owner still said that he had to decide whether or not to keep me employed.

The owner then went out of town for a week, coming back the following Monday, and then on that Tuesday I was called into the office around 4:00pm and the discharge in my original post took place.

I have not received the actual determination yet, so I am not sure what exactly it says. However, this is some of the information that I have come up with so far that I am going to bring to light in my appeal:

1) Names of people who used the internet but were not disciplined.
2) Dates and the names of people who told me that internet usage was acceptable
3) Dates supervisor was made aware that I was accessing the internet for personal use and did not say anything (dating back to January when I was hired)
4) Noted comments from the owner about other employees accessing ebay
5) Policy that says personal internet usage is okay.
6) Policy does not say that personal internet usage will result in termination
7) Proof that I asked for more work from my supervisor every day via status report emails

I figure that I have good standing for an appeal because the only internet usage policy I knew of stated that it was allowed, other employees were not disciplined or terminated for their internet usage, there were no clear outlines for internet usage so I did not know that I was stepping out of my boundaries, it did not affect my work, I was not warned about it even though my immediate supervisor had been aware of it for my entire employment, and obviously the employer's disciplinary actions were not uniform company-wide.

I'm thinking on the right track, correct?

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My thoughts on your situation
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Hi LR,

I have one word for you, Credibility.

This is what you need to understand about your situation.

You were fired, therefore, at the hearing it is the employer that will have to "sustain the burden" that you were discharged for misconduct .. according to their policies.

If the rule says that you could use company computers for personal use, but that if it became excessive you should be warned .. so you would know your job was in jeopardy if the problem was not corrected. I think you will be okay.

1. Focus on the lack of warning and the policy.

2. Beware that an employer can use computer logs to show excessive use, at least that's what I'd like to see ... how else do they prove something like that .. especially if they have a rule that allows personal use.

3. That conversation you had where you were given the option of quitting and then when you didn't opt for it they said what they intended to do. This is where the credibility comes in. You've never really mentioned what was "frustrating", but this conversation might make the employer's action ring of a retaliatory measure for other issues going on.

Let me know how it goes.


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Received the determination
by: LR

I received the determination (finally!) and it was not favorable for me. Evidently the claims adjudicator did not listen to me when I told him about the company policy that okay'd computer usage for personal use. It seems as if he did not listen to what I said at all in the phone interview. Appeal time! I spoke with another claims adjudicator who reviewed the file after the determination was made, and he said that with the information that they had, he probably would have made the same determination (the original claims adjudicator did not document everything that I said during our interview). However, he said that I stood a good chance of turning it around in the appeals process if I was able to convey my information to the referee correctly...showing the company policy that shows that it is okay to use the company internet for personal use and that my manager knew all along that I was and never wrote me up. I just have to figure out how to make it unquestionable that this was not an issue of misconduct.

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