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Fired for violation of company rules and policies - Texas

by VJ
(Houston, 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!

Thank you.

VJ


Hi VJ,

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.

Your points....

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).





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Jan 12, 2012
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I'm back
by: VJ

It's been a few years since I wrote about me being what I considered "wrongfully terminated" by submitting an incorrect timesheet. I'm sorry to read about everyone's situations. It's heartbreaking that employers view their employees as so expendable. I hope that you all have been successful in getting unemployment and have moved on to better, more fulfilling jobs.

As for me, I was not successful. Come to find out, my employer did not respond to the TWC when I first applied for unemployment. It was not until I was denied benefits by TWC and filed an appeal that they decided to speak up. They asked for 2 or 3 delays for my phone appeal hearing for various reasons and got them. When we were finally all on the phone together, my employer requested another delay because they didn't realize they would need my timesheets and wanted more time to collect them. Their request was denied.

To make a long story short, TWC denied me unemployment benefits because it was their opinion, not my employer's, that I had violated company policy. Go figure. During my phone appeal hearing, my employer admitted there was nothing in writing in our employee manual or on our timesheets regarding this issue, so I was stunned that TWC denied me benefits. How could I be denied unemployed for violating company rules and policies when there were none about this issue? Also, my employer did not seem to be opposed to me getting unemployment, but the TWC was. In my best interested, I decided to stop my appeal process and focus on finding another job, which took me almost 2 years.

Unfortunately, I was again terminated January 3rd because my employer decided over the holidays that he wanted "to take the firm in a different direction." In other words, he was re-hiring a former employee who had been working with us on a part-time basis. There isn't enough work for both of us, so I was the expendable one. She is continuing to work PT and will not be receiving any benefits a/k/a she's the cheaper one to keep. I doubt this time that the outcome will be the same as it was a few years ago, but with the TWC, you never know. So far, so good. We'll see what happens this time.

When I applied for unemployment benefits, I noticed that TWC uses the word "fired" instead of "terminated." I wasn't "fired" as much as I was "let go" or "terminated." I can't say I was "terminated without cause" because Texas is an "employment at will" state and they don't have to have a reason to let an employee go. Maybe I was "laid off?" But fired? I don't think so.

Again, I wish everyone luck in their pursuit of gainful employment and pray that we regain the jobs we lost during the last several years. I've said this many times, I don't wish what I've been through since being terminated in 2009 on anyone. The financial, psychological and emotional damage is deep and it will take a long time before I feel secure again in my career.

Good luck, everyone! VJ





Jan 11, 2012
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wrongful conduct
by: Anne

I am commenting because I too was terminated for not follwoing policies and procedures. I worked at a call center and was terminated for disconnecting a call after a customer was warned several times throughout the call to stop using profanity. TWC denied my claim for the same TWC law reference for misconduct, and I think this is just a technicality used to get out of paying. The employer stated that I was told that I was to forward the call to a resolution team expert rather than disconnect. The point is I was not told this nor was I shown where in Policies and Pocedures nor was I given a handbook or signed any document pertaining to this "compamy policy". I feel that I was wrongfuly terminated, I spoke to several employees who were under the impression to disconnect a call after the second attempt. Another reason the employer said I was being terminated was due to do a code of conduct violation on "professionalism". This was a result on the same issue, the call where I disconnected. Now this really goes into a lot of detail, more than I care to write about. I did file an appeal but you know how long that takes 6-8 weeks. Meanwhile I am searching for employment, and enlisted in the services of an attorney. I feel discouraged at this point for I think all this has been laid on my plate, and just another ploy by TWC to not allow me the benefits that I have worked all my life for! By the way, there was never any mention of my poor performance, statistically wise until I was fire. This is so insane.
I just wanted to comment that you're not alone. I feel like a victim just like you do.
Thanks

Apr 20, 2011
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Wrongful Termination .. How so?
by: Chris - Unemployment-tips

Wrongful termination? Are you kidding me? How would you prove that? Did you have an employment contract that the employer violated?

Maybe if they had pressed charges and you were found innocent .. you'd have some kind of lawsuit .. but I don't know what it would be .. slander .. maybe libel?

You, I'm sure, were like the bulk of American employees.

Working in "at will employment" Free to be .. you and me. You can quit for any damn reason you want .. and they can fire you for any damn reason they want .. but they can't discriminate .. because that's illegal .. but most people can't prove that .. so what's the use .. unless you have an unlimited bankroll to begin with?

Now whether you have an opportunity to obtain unemployment benefits .. is an entirely different train of thought.

A discharge must be for willful misconduct if the employer does not want to be charged for your unemployment benefits.

And .. it is not sufficient to offer hearsay testimony that a "customer" called to tell this story to the employer and that they simply believed the story .. I mean .. how did they get the check in question back, if it was supposedly in your possession, unless the supposed conspirator got an overwhelming attack of the guilts??

But having said all this .. I would expect the possibility that you could be denied benefits by the TWC.

If this happens you will need to appeal, and an unemployment appeal hearing is quite a different matter ..

That's where the employer really has to prove by offering credible testimony and evidence that you did this.

Do yourself a favor if you wind up at an appeal hearing.

Be represented and understand for yourself, the weaknesses your employer's burden carries for them. Per Texas Unemployment of course.

Apr 20, 2011
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Fired--TX resident
by: JB

I was just recently fired from my job based on a complete lie made up. I worked in credit/collection at a Auction in Dallas. My job is to get money coming in that is owed to the company. I was called into the HR and was asked several question's as to "would any one have any reason to give us your name for a crime" I told him no. I then asked several other questions pretty much relavent to the first one. I didn't know what was going on or why i was being asked all the questions. I was then told that my name was given to them by someone stating that i had stole a check and took it off of company property and was going to cash it and split it with this person. I told my HR director that i did not know nothing about this and "NO" i did not do it.He 1st said i was being sent home as of now pending his investigation, i asked how long the inv would take he stated he would call me by 5pm that day which it was 335pm at the time. I told him ok fine because i was not worried about it because i knew i had done nothing.i guess he didn't like the response that i gave him. Then he says well as of now we are going to terminate you. I then got upset crying and told him that he hasn't even done the investigation. i was follwed to my desk by my boss and followed to the parking lot.I never rec'v a call bk so i called him at 1035am the next morning and asked if his inv was complete, he said yes but stated he was busy and could not speak with me that he would call me by the end of the business day at 5pm. I waited till 445pm and never rec'v a call. I called him and he stated that they were sticking to the termination for me and that I was Indentified by a customer as the person that took the ck. I asked the HR guy to call the police and press charges on me if they were going to accuse me of a felony crime that i have now lost my job over. He stated no they were not going to do that because the ck was returned today. I told him how funny it is that just yesterday i was suppose to have taken the ck, now you got it. I then asked if they weren't going to file charges with the police dept then since they have the ck back now to have the ck ran for my fingerprints he said NO, they were not going to do that and their decision has been made and I was terminated.
Now needless to say at this auction we have drivers that drive the cars through the auction and we have dealers that come and bid on the cars. We have had SEVERAL people caught stealing radios,hubcaps,fuse box covers & ect. They call the police on them, so with this being a company ck why wouldn't they treat me the same as them. i still have not gotten a letter of termination or separation. I have not gotten my belongs from my desk & I still have not gotten my last check. This happened 4/5/11. If you can please help me with any information about the law, or if this is considered wrongful termination, I would greatly appreciate it.




Feb 23, 2011
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It's not right at all!!!! Same time issue, PLEASE HELP!!!
by: TX Resident

I was fired for a time issue as well. My former employer noticed the mistake right away, however he still approved and signed my check and handed it over to me. I told him right then that I would like to correct the mistake right away & have that check voided out so the error could be corrected & be given another check with the corrected hours. He told me no, just go ahead and take your check, I told him again that I would not accept the overpayment & wanted to rectify my hours to recieve my fair and proper hours of pay. He insisted that I go ahead & take the check. 7 days later I was fired for what they said was worries that there may be future discrepencies because of this oversight! I was denied benefits for Issue: Fired-Violation of Company Rules and Policies
Law Reference: Section 207.044 of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act.
What Violation of Company Rules and Policies??????? There were no policies in place at that company, written, verbally or otherwise. As a matter of fact, I had been there for 3 years, 11 mos. without even a verbal warning of anything. I wasn't even aware that my timesheets mattered so much to them anyway or that they were even my responsibility. For example: there were a few instances when I was cut a paycheck without so much as even turning in a timesheet because the accountant had come a day or so early without my knowledge. When I asked if they would like me to submit my hours so they could correct my pay (whether it was more or less, I don't remember) he (my supervisor) told me not to worry about it and denied that it was even a problem, I didn't think there was anything to probably worry about and change anyway since my supervisor writes all my hours down on his calendar - every day. I also always turned any piece of AP paperwork in for approval to my supervisor so he could then look over and approve of everything before the accountant came and before he signed any checks.
My appeal is just a few days away!!! Do you think I have a good chance of winning my appeal & what key points do you think I should stick to in order to better prove my case?


Also, what documentation if any should I send as evidence???? I couldn't think of any documents that would help, because of there being no Handbook or policies ever. Oh yeah & I forgot to mention that all my files including my timesheets were stored on my computer that everyone in that office had access to as they wanted to be able to get or work with files off of my computer if i were on vacation or needed to take a sick day. If you have any suggestions for me please reply, I'm pretty nervous and frustrated about my appeal.

Thanks


Forget it .. you are asking me to do a consultation online .. not going to happen ..

Oct 04, 2010
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time clock
by: Anonymous

So im going through the same thing right now. Was fired over a time clock error and have been receiving benefits for 2 months. And my employer appealed it so I have a hearing coming up. My employer also allowed me to work a month after the mistake. Just wanted to know if you ever won the hearing? And what are my chances?

Feb 15, 2009
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Pursuing your right to unemployment after you have been denied unemployment
by: Chris

VJ

You are pursuing your right to unemployment and you are going about it correctly because you understand the ability to show good cause for unemployment requires not just an argument, but a valid argument with reasons why you should get unemployment.

I think your strongest argument is that you were allowed to continue to work. Believe me, the hearing officer will want to know why the employer allowed this if you were fired for "attempting to steal from the company" which make no mistake, that is what time fraud accuses a person of.

The length of continued employment after a rule violation or in your case, actually the decision to fire you, dilutes any argument that misconduct was the reason for discharge....lacks conviction.

This brings me to another question. If you had just received the largest raise anyone in your department had ever received and if you were considered an exemplary employee, WHY did the employer choose to treat you differently from other employees?

Have you explored issues like retaliation or wrongful termination (which can be the case if an employer terminates an individual if the employer didn't follow their own written policy.

Please read the Disclaimer I'm not an attorney just someone who does have some knowledge of how unemployment works and knows that in some states if a person loses at an unemployment hearing, it can prevent them from seeking another remedy.

This is not the case in Texas, because of this law:

Sec. 213.007. COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL DOCTRINE INAPPLICABLE. A finding of fact, conclusion of law, judgment, or final order made under this subtitle is not binding and may not be used as evidence in an action or proceeding, other than an action or proceeding brought under this subtitle, even if the action or proceeding is between the same or related parties or involves the same facts.

Employers love to toss around the term "at will employment", but the "at will doctrine" does not void worker protection rights nor the terms and conditions of the employment laid out in the handbook.

If you take a job and an employer makes you sign an acknowledgment that you have received the "handbook" that's the contract that both you and the employer agree to.



I think we all know or should know that we can never expect anyone to be vigilant about our rights. It's our responsibility.

The time to learn about our rights and responsibilities for best results...is going in.

Okay, I'm stepping down of my soapbox now.

Feb 14, 2009
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Thank you!
by: VJ

Thanks for your comments. They are very helpful. You made one good point I had not thought of and that is the fact that I was allowed to continue to work for several weeks after being terminated. If I was such a threat or they thought that this was a recurring problem with me, then I should have been escorted out of the office immediately. Obviously, they did not.

I discussed working until December 19th with both the department head and my supervisor, and both were unopposed to it. Not ot mention the fact that my final timesheets were submitted to administration and accepted without my supervisor's signature, as had all my other timesheets. I would have thought my supervisor's signature was mandatory considering what I was terminated for.

The reason I continued to work was, as an exempt employee, I would only be paid for half of my accrued comp time once I left and I wanted to make sure I got as much salary and payment for my comp time as I possibly could.

Again, thank you for your comments. They will be most helpful in my appeal. If you know of anything that I can use, please let me know.






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