Fired for violation of company rules and policies - Texas
Late last year I was terminated for submitting a timesheet claiming that I had worked 3 days on which I had not. It was truly an honest mistake on my part! I had filled out that particular timesheet a few weeks before because of the Thanksgiving holidays, not knowing I would be taking time off during that pay period. At the time, I had recently purchased a new house and was having a lot of work done on it before I moved in. The work was completed the Friday before Thanksgiving, which was ahead of schedule, so I took off the week of Thanksgiving to move.
My timesheet for that pay period was due the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. When I realized I had not submitted it, it was two days late, and I quickly faxed it to administration as I was leaving the office for the day. Due to the fact that my timesheet was late, my exhaustion and stress from the move, and trying to catch up from the Thanksgiving holidays, it did not occur to me that I was submitting an incorrect timesheet. All I was thinking was my timesheet was late and I needed to turn it in immediately. The morning after I submitted my timesheet, my department head came into my office and stated that my supervisor wanted me terminated for submitting an incorrect timesheet and I was accused of committing fraud. They told me they could file charges against me with the DA's office, but had decided not to. Needless to say, I was shocked that: (1) I had made the mistake; (2) that my supervisor did not talk to me about this before taking such a drastic measure; and (3) I was being accused of committing fraud. I explained to them why the mistake was made, that it was not intentional on my part, and I would most certainly submit a corrected timesheet. After a lengthly conversation, I then asked if they would reconsider their decision. They seemed to understand and sympathsize with me, but stated there was nothing they could do since it was coming from my supervisor. I later talked to my supervisor and told them the same thing, and asked them if they would reconsider their decision. My supervisor stated that, while they too understood, it was out of their hands because they had already talked to the department head and it was up to them whether or not I kept my job. They further stated they had done everything they could do to protect me and keep the department head from filing fraud charges against me. They also stated that nothing negative would go into my personnel file. Oh goodie! But I was still fired!
Afterwards, I spoke to other employees in other departments, and was told they all had made mistakes on their timesheets and when they either realized it or it was brought to their attention by their supervisors, they just submitted a corrected one. No harm. No foul.
All employees certify on their timesheets that they included all the hours actually worked or will have worked during the pay period, and that they have not reported any hours as worked that were not worked. If the actual time worked varies from what is reported, then you will correct the time before the end of the next pay period. I was a exempt employee and had accrued the maximum amount allowed of 240 hours comp time as well as two weeks vacation, so the dollar amount of my paycheck would not have been affected by my mistake.
I was fired the week after Thanksgiving, worked until December 19th, and used comp time until my last day of employment, which was December 31st. My employer paid me for all my unused vacation and remaining comp time.
During my last employment, I had never been disciplined for anything and my personnel file did
not contain anything derogatory. In fact, I had just gotten the highest raise my employer could give due to my excellent job review from my supervisor. I was considered an exemplary employee, well liked by everyone, more than exceeded expectation, etc. So, I am at a loss as to why I lost my job for making an honest mistake.
Because I received an employee's manual, the Texas Workforce Commission ("TWC") stated "Our investigation found your former employer fired you from your last work for violation of company rules and policies. The employer had informed you of the rule and policies in question." I have read the manual from cover-to-cover and it states is that an employee must report their time accurately. There is no rules or policy stating that if an employee inaccurately reports their time, they will be terminated. The timesheet is the only document containing any language regarding the procedure for correcting your time. TWC also stated that their law reference is Section 207.044 of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act, which states "DISCHARGE FOR MISCONDUCT. (a) An individual is disqualified for benefits if the individual was discharged for misconduct connected with the individual's last work."
My contentions are: (1) that there is nothing in the employee manual regarding this; (2) I did not intentionally or knowingly violate company policy when I submitted my timesheet; and (3) if I did violate company policy, I was not treated the same as other employees are under the same or similar circumstance. Also, TWC told me that my employer was not fighting my request for unemployment, which certainly should go in my favor. I have to file my appeal of the TWC's decision by February 23rd and need advice on how to best go about it and hopefully, prevail. Any help you can give me will be most appreciated!
Great detailed account!
I certainly think you're right on track with points to make in your appeal letter. I also suggest that anyone contemplating an unemployment appeal in Texas check the TX Appeal Policy and Precedent manual here.
1. That the employer's policy does not have a policy for this and even if it does..the policy was not uniformly enforced would have more weight with testimony from a witness who is able to directly attest to this fact. Documentation (the handbook) could also be used. I don't think I'd use one of those timecards...not with the certification.
2. Your contention that this was a mistake due to the stressful circumstances in your life to show this was not a willing, knowful, or intentional act of misconduct would be weak on it's own, but is necessary.
3. I was a exempt employee and had accrued the maximum amount allowed of 240 hours comp time as well as two weeks vacation, so the dollar amount of my paycheck would not have been affected by my mistake. Or "no harm no foul". Topped off by something you just glanced over....
4. You said you were fired the week after Thanksgiving...so why did you continue to work until 12/19??? If an employer truly believes they should fire someone for misconduct, why would they let you continue working for...what 2-3 additional weeks??? They fired you for time theft. If you presented harm to the employer's interest...why didn't they walk you out the day they fired you? This argument could be used to undermine the employer's ability to sustain their burden.
I don't quite understand why the TWC told you the employer isn't fighting your claim. They may have assumed this because they did not receive a response to their request for information, but even if Texas is now considering the employer "Not a Party of Interest (NPI on the hearing notice) an employer can offer testimony at the hearing, they just won't have any appeal right if the determination is reversed (unless they can prove otherwise).