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Washington state, statute RCW 50.20.050(2) cited in Determination Notice, yet I did not quit my job.

by Anonymous
(Washington State)

Abstract:


Hello. I was working in a small, family owned company (8 people total) for about 13 months as the only receptionist. I was "let go", according to the President of the company, due to a verbal (no signed agreement) change-in-schedule request which no longer met the company?s needs. After the President said this, I offered to retract my request for a schedule change and keep working the same hours but he did NOT accept. His reply was that "it would be in your best interest to find a job which will better suit your schooling needs". However, I know and have written proof that this was not the real reason why they laid me off. I submitted my unemployment claim to the Unemployment Office of Washington state last December, in the "laid off" business/financial decision? category and immediately started to receive social security benefits. When the unemployment office sent their forms to my former employer to verify my claim information, my ex-employer responded under the "Discharge Information, question #2: Was the claimant discharged for one or more of the following reasons" Other: Lack of available hours to fill position. Claimant said she would be leaving work 1.5 hrs early for two days/week so she could attend a class. When she was hired she agreed to work 5 hrs/day, 5 days/wk. Her reduced hours did not meet our needs". This caused a mismatch of information provided to the unemployment office regarding my claim and they began to investigate the case by asking me to give my side of the story and explain why I claimed as "laid off" business/ financial decision" for unemployment benefits. I did provide them with my story and reasoning, and I also included a copy of an email that my immediate supervisor wrote to me the day after I was no longer employed. In that email, she confirmed that upper management had met together to discuss my employment and the financial situation of the company as well. She verified that the real reason why I was "let go" was not due to my schedule change request but due to the financial status of the company; "We both know the money is tight and when President figured out that he could save about $1500/month by letting you go, he was all over that idea", plus other information which supports a financially based decision to let me go. A few weeks after I submitted this information to the unemployment office, I got a Determination Notice stating that I did not have good cause to quit my job and am denied all received benefits. They gave this statute as the one they used to determine their decision on my claim: RCW 50.20.050(2). http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=50.20.050

Background Information:

The reason why I was hired for this position was to be a receptionist for the company and an assistant to the office manager (referred to as O.M. here), who was also my immediate supervisor (referred to as I.S. here). The company had a previous office assistant/ receptionist who left a few months earlier and the OM/IS could not handle both jobs on her own anymore. I was hired with the verbal understanding that my schedule was flexible with regards to my schooling needs (but no documentation was signed to that effect), and throughout my employment there my O.M./I.S. always made it clear to me that she wanted to be flexible with my work/ school schedule because she believes that higher education is very important. For 12 months I was able to schedule classes around my work schedule. When I asked her if working 1.5 hrs/week less would be OK with her and the company, she immediately said "yes" and added that she would be "able to handle 1.5 hrs/wk without me because business is slow". I also asked her to tell me if anyone disagreed with my request for a schedule change so that I would not risk upsetting anyone. To my knowledge, I was not aware of any disagreement regarding my schedule change request until the morning of the last day that I worked there.

This company is part of a dying trend in its field. Half of the technology they rely on is outdated and they are just starting to get a grip on the new ways of handling the products they sell. Because of their operational habits and vendor relations, they do not have a good reputation with manufacturers. They are a middle-man business who buys direct from manufacturers and re-sells their products to the public, and they also operate as a repair shop for the old products still in use. I knew the company was in financial hot-water because we received calls from collection agencies on our overdue accounts, loan-help calls, $50,000 to $500,000 automated loan "offers" by phone, etc, several times a week and often several times a day. I had access to our customer and vendor accounts and was able to determine from that information that the company was indeed in trouble with money; we owed half of our vendors thousands of
dollars nearly the whole time that I worked there and had many customer accounts which were not in good standing. The office manager and I worked in an environment where we were not sure how long it would be until the company started to crumble because of the revenue/income shortage. I also served as a collection "agent" for the company and placed calls to our customers who were overdue by only a few weeks, sometimes days, in an attempt to get any payment so that our company would have enough funds to process our own payroll every two weeks. Towards the end of my time there, it was very bad and the atmosphere in the office was deteriorating due to the stress of not knowing if we were going to be paid our wages on time or at all. Although I mentally considered it at times, I did not want to leave or quit my position there despite these bad markers because the economy was at rock bottom as well "better to have this job while going to school than none" was my rationale.

Concerns & Questions:

I do not understand where I went wrong. I"m also confused as to why the unemployment office used the statute mentioned above (regarding good cause to quit) as their reasoning behind my determination/ denial of benefits when I did not quit. I know and feel that I was "let go" through no fault of my own because the financial status of the company was the real factor in their decision. I believe that upper management (President and V.P.) collaborated against me without my knowledge and used my request for a schedule change as an excuse to let me go because when I offered to retract that request they still refused to employ me. I do not know why or how the unemployment office could have missed this valuable information or seemingly ignore the crystal-clear proof that I provided only to rule against me and not my former employer. The company has not yet hired a replacement for me more than 5 months later and has again placed tremendous stress on the same O.M. that they originally hired me to relieve.

My plan is to appeal the determination/ decision of the unemployment office. I have two weeks from today to mail my appeal letter in. After reading your website and the priceless advice you've shared, I know what I may be up against and the main steps I have to take in order to fix my situation. However, I still have many specific questions to ask.

1) Should I seek the help of a lawyer? (Through your partnership with justanswers.com)
2) Should I subpoena my previous O.M./I.S. to the hearing (if my appeal is granted) to question her? Should I subpoena the President and VP as well? I would ask them questions to support my claim.
3) Why might the unemployment office rule against me despite all of the evidence and information that I have provided in my favor?
4) Are there any details of the appeal process or claim process that are important to understand before experiencing them?
5) Is there any other advice that you feel is pertinent to my case? What would you have done/ do in my position?
6) Did I make any mistakes; is this the result of my own ignorance?

I have some facts that may help that were not mentioned above:

- No documents were created or signed by anyone on my last day with the company.
- The President and O.M./I.S. were both present at the meeting on the morning of my last day with the company and neither of those persons said the word "fired". I never received any verbal or written communication stating that I had been "fired". (This is why I reported my claim under "laid off" business/ financial decision?).
- There may be another underlying factor which my O.M./I.S. mentioned in her email to me. During the last month that I was there, my O.M./I.S. had a vacation day. On that day, the VP broke the printer and got very upset. He yelled at me to fix it and eventually threw a contact book at me to look up and contact the printer vendor, even though no one but the O.M./I.S. knew who the vendor for the printer was. In the email my O.M./I.S. sent after I was "let go", she claims she believes that this was another reason why they decided to discontinue my employment. Long story short, I located and contacted the printer vendor as instructed and the printer was fixed immediately. This has nothing to do with insubordination, but the O.M./I.S. mentioned that they didn't want to get into any legal trouble if I decided to report the incident as harassment. I did not report the incident but in retrospect I believe I should have. Lesson learned.

I want to close with my thanks. Without your efforts I don't think I would have the solid determination to fight this. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Comments for Washington state, statute RCW 50.20.050(2) cited in Determination Notice, yet I did not quit my job.

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May 05, 2009
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Continued comment
by: Chris - webmaster:)

I have no doubt that with or without this website .. you would be able to figure everything out and would be just fine, but I sincerely appreciate anyone letting me know that this is helping. It keeps me going .. don't you know.

Unemployment hearings in Washington are conducted via telephone. They are relatively informal, but it is extremely important to pay attention to the ALJ or hearing officer. Claimants sometimes have a tendency to babble. I doubt this will be your problem.

I don't think it will be necessary for you to focus on anything, but the "final incident". It is understandable why you may have selected laid off, but as you can see assuming the true intentions of an employer's decision to end employment can play havoc when we present our assumption as the reason.

One last thing .. the mention of "school" always prompts me to take a look at my favorite resource.

The The United States Dept. of Labor I love this resource. I checked "Nonmonetary Eligibility" Table 5-12. You never know, there may be subtle differences from state to state that can have an effect .. and a wise employee and unemployment claimant anticipates problems instead of tripping over problems.

You on the other hand .. did things almost exactly right and provided information to correct your mistake, but nonetheless are being forced to overcome someone else's mistake.

May 05, 2009
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State made a mistake denying your unemployment benefits
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Hi Anonymous,

First, please let me say that your submission shines as a definitive example of what I'd call "detailed perfection" I do not need to ask one single question of you:)

Mistakes happen and sometimes, as in your case, more than one mistake happens.

Yes, it was a mistake for you to choose "laid off". You were in fact "discharged", but not for good cause. You requested 1.5 hours off per week, but a request is not good cause to discharge someone unless they ignore the denial of the request.

So, in fact the employer responded correctly, and when this raised the issue for the state to examine, you properly explained and provided information to the state with regard to your "reason selection".

Then the state improperly ignored both the information from the employer and you by making a choice of the wrong statute and decision.

My opinion is the determination should have read that you were discharged without good cause and therefore were entitled to benefits.

Please understand it is humans, that when preparing a determination, may choose the wrong item in a drop down box and / or be pressed for time with the completeness of the reasoning that the determination arrived at.

Therefore, your appeal needs to first be based upon the fact that the wrong statute was used for the determination no matter who the state believed.

You have a very firm grasp on why you should not be denied unemployment benefits so even though I suggest going to to justanswer.com to ask a question when I think your problem may extend beyond a basic unemployment issue that I have questions about and is one of the ways I pay for maintaining this website. No, I don't think you need to do this. Although I thank you for the opportunity to add a link to it:)

If you would like to get some help though, I suggest, since you are in Washington State, that you go to Unemployment Law Project.

Witnesses: I suppose it would be nice to have the OM/IS as a witness to testify to the email, but I do not think it is necessary to subpoena anyone else. The reason is that without rebuttal testimony to your testimony .. you have the advantage. I also think before going the subpoena route .. maybe you should ask the OM/IS if she'd freely be a witness.

Continued ...

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