Unemployment eligibility – what is fault

Posted by: Nov 09, 2017By Brian Stutheit

Colorado unemployment law makes a distinction between termination for cause, and termination due to employee fault.  A person may of course be terminated for cause, such as for being incapable of doing a job, getting ill, missing an appointment, or many other reasons.   But to be ineligible for unemployment, the employee must have been “at fault”.  This is something entirely different than termination for cause.

Brian Stutheit won benefits for a bank cashier who was fired for being gone too long on her lunch break.  Company policy gave her 45 minutes.  The reason she was late returning for lunch was she got a flat tire.  Termination was for cause.  But the cause of being late was not the cashier’s fault.  “Fault” for purposes of unemployment means a volitional act.  That is, an act which is within the employee’s choice or control.    In the example of the bank cashier, she called her supervisor to report that she would be late, and why.  If she had not called in, she probably would have been “at fault” for violating a bank policy to report.

An employee might be counseled to work faster.  Despite her best efforts, she cannot work fast enough.  She gets fired.  The firing was not her fault.  She should qualify for unemployment.  She probably needs advice how best to prepare her case.  How, for instance, can she prove that she was giving good effort? What other nuances are there which could help or hurt?  Stutheit & Gartland often helps people first applying for benefits to understand what facts it is important to relate to the deputy deciding the claim.  We often win appeals where the issue is whether or not the employee’s firing was due to fault.