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Fired for not keeping a layoff secret (I think). Can I get unemployment?


I got fired and feel I deserve unemployment. I have never been written up or been accused of violating any specific policy (the office was small; there was no employee handbook or posted rules). I was given a list of reasons for the firing; the first and apparently most important thing mentioned was that the manager felt I had "broken her trust". The back story to that is this:

The manager told me she was firing another employee for poor performance. It was not specifically stated that this was confidential information, but it was, obviously, to be assumed. Long story short, my guilt got the better of me and I ended up telling the coworker that I had heard there "might" be layoffs if we didn't improve and I gave her some tips on things "we" should probably change in order to keep "our" jobs. I didn't give specifics about my conversation with the boss, but really, I shouldn't have said anything at all. At the time I honestly thought I was helping everyone out; coworker could keep her job and boss got better performance. BUT, the coworker told the boss that I had warned her that someone might be getting fired. Boss got mad and accused me, basically, of not being able to keep a secret and not being trust-worthy, and fired me. Of course, the coworker had also told ME things that the boss had told her in confidence, and I explained to the boss that we were both guilty of gossiping- but the other employee was NOT fired.

So anyway, in the firing meeting when this was brought up, I explained my good intentions, and the manager kind of blew it off and responded with a list of other reasons why I could have been fired anyway: that gossiping between the other coworker and I was too much of a problem in other areas, that the other coworker had told her that I didn't really want to work there anymore and had said bad things about the job, and that my availability, although previously acceptable, no longer met the needs of the company.

So, my first question: Assuming that the first thing mentioned was the most important, and I was fired essentially for failing to keep a secret, would that count as "gross misconduct" and disqualify me from getting unemployment?

Or... assuming that it really was a culmination of all of those things that I did... what would I consider the "reason" I was fired when I have to put it on paper? I want to just lump it all together as something akin to "personal problems between coworkers", because that seems to cover it. Would THAT be considered misconduct of some kind?

Would it be helpful for me to go back to the manager and ask for something in writing saying why I was fired? Or, is it in my favor that there is not anything in writing (at least not anything that was signed by me)? I am just nervous that how I explain the firing and how the boss explains the firing will be totally different and that this will affect my claim. I am not trying to skew the truth, I just honestly don't know how to explain it. It wasn't very clear to me in the first place.


Well, let's try to break this down into large bite size pieces.

Colorado is strict. A regular misconduct determination will keep you from collecting anything for 10 weeks plus the filing week and reduce or cancel
the amount of future benefits by an amount equal to 10 times your weekly benefits amount.

The gross disqualification will completely remove all 26 weeks of benefits plus require you to return to work and earn at least an amount equal to your WBA in each of 10 weeks.

CO defines gross misconduct as: A deliberate act or negligence or carelessness of such a degree as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent or evil design

First, the employer did not tell you they would be laying off .. you were told a co-worker was going to be fired for performance. I guess my first instinct is to ask if there was any reason the employer should have shared this type of confidential information with you except maybe to encourage you to help the co-worker with the performance issues? I also urge you to not admit willingly that "you knew" it was wrong and that you were breaking a confidence .. I'll refer you back to the definition and to the words carelessness, culpability and deliberate.

I certainly would not give the employer the opportunity to create documentation now. Some will do this after the fact anyway and try to pawn it off as if it was presented and the employee refused to sign at the time of termination.

Without prior warnings for anything, it should not be that difficult for the state to surmise the actual reason for the discharge even if you tell them everything the employer said and address each issue individually. States like to know what the final incident was. They also like to know if there was a known rule and if not, did the employer previously warn you as a way of making the rule known and providing you with a chance to alter a behavior ..

When documentation isn't presented it doesn't necessarily mean that a one-time occurrence can't rise to a level of misconduct and a failure to previously warn isn't insurmountable .. but I suggest that your situation is a little ambiguous to clearly define it as such.

How will the employer show that trying to help a co-worker improve their performance .. based on information you should not have been given had the potential to cause harm to the employers interests. I think you could argue that at best it was an effort to help both the employer and the co-worker and your misjudgment was in knowing that the employer would react so harshly to your good intention to only help. Will they bring the co-worker to a hearing to testify .. or will they present hearsay testimony as to what you supposedly said to the co-worker? It's wise to take into consideration what you think they might do and prepare for it.

Fortunately, for you Colorado allows you quite a bit of space to explain when filing and you will also be able to prepare for the interview slightly, and gain an inadequate depth of understanding if you access their online unemployment reference library.

Lastly, if I were an employer sharing information I shouldn't be sharing with a subordinate I would probably admonish the individual to keep it confidential because mentioning it might cause harm .. at least I could then testify truthfully, that I told them to stay quiet and that when they blabbed it was an act of insubordination and the only thing I'd have to worry about is explaining why it's okay for me the boss to blab secret to people I shouldn't be telling stuff, but it's not okay for anyone else.

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Jan 13, 2010
by: Anonymous


Thanks for your help-

I believe the manager shared the information with me just because she wanted to get it off of her chest- she's a "talker" and shared lots of things with me that she shouldn't have. The information really didn't affect my job at all and there wasn't any reason I needed to know that the coworker was going to get fired. The only argument I could see otherwise is that she wanted to let me know that I would need to be training someone new, or wanted to gauge my interest in taking on some of the coworker's hours and responsibilities. But this was NOT directly stated.

As the coworker is still working there and nothing else changed, I can't see how my actions caused any "harm" to the business, other than making the manager feel like an idiot. But I don't really think that's my problem.

Do you suggest going into as much detail as possible in the initial application for unemployment, or do you suggest keeping it more vague and elaborating once it is denied?

I suggest highlighting the strongest elements you have.

No written rules.

No prior warnings.

That you were only trying to help someone improve their performance after receiving information you had no business knowing.

Do Not admit knowing fault for your actions.

You will have enough space to state why you think you were fired.

I think when offered the reasons for discharge .. I would select insubordination .. because that is actually what the employer fired you for, but the employer didn't tell you to keep it confidential and you in fact acted in a way that tried to avoid telling what you knew, but still felt morally compelled to try to help this co-worker.

You were trying to help the co-worker not harm the employer and guess what .. the co-worker is still there. Just be aware that the other extraneous stuff the employer mentioned in the termination .. availability etc., will probably be brought up by the employer, but that you can address, if asked about it, during the interview.

Just reread what you write from an objective point of view before you hit the submit button.

It amazes me, how many times I read the disqualifying information, not in the employer's response, but the claimant's.

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