As your business grows, you’ll need employees to continue developing and expanding. In a perfect world, your employees stay forever, never step out of line, and get along fabulously with their coworkers. Our world is no such utopia, however, and eventually you will likely face an unemployment claim from the Illinois Department of Employment Services (“IDES”). The unemployment insurance system leans towards the former employees (“Claimants”). Unless you can provide a strong argument to withhold unemployment benefits, IDES will probably rule in the claimant’s favor.
Should you receive a Notice of Claim from IDES, it’s extremely important to respond properly. We lay out a basic step-by-step process below.
Pay close attention to the timeline
When you receive a Notice of Claim, the first thing you should look for is the “Reply Due Date,” located at the top right corner of the first page. You must respond with your protest within 10 days of mailing, or else your chance to object is lost. IDES enforces this deadline very strictly; if you’re even one day late, you lose your right to protest the claim and will be on the hook for unemployment payments.
Write a protest letter
In a separate document, explain your reasons why the former employee should not receive unemployment benefits. Be very detailed and specific, but keep it to two pages, if possible. Much longer and it begins to ramble. If the employee was terminated for misconduct, describe in detail the specific situation(s) leading up to their dismissal. This can include:
- Discussions you had with the employee about their misconduct;
- Emails or other written correspondence demonstrating that the employee had notice of their misbehaviors (include as attachments);
- Specific dates when these discussions occurred, or when the employee misbehaved or violated a company policy.
If the termination was prompted by a policy violation, reference the policy and attach a copy with your protest letter. Conclude with a short overview of your argument, sign the bottom, and include your contact information.
Find witnesses, if possible
Look at what you wrote in your protest letter – did anyone witness the incidents that led to the employee’s termination? If so, question them about what they saw and heard. Their testimony could greatly strengthen your standing. Witnesses may need to be brought in for a telephone hearing, if the administrative judge deems it necessary.
Gather relevant documents
The more proof, the better! If you present an organized front and provide documentary evidence, you improve the chances that the claim will be denied (but be careful – don’t overwhelm the IDES agent with too much information and paper). What proves relevant and helpful will vary from case to case. It might include company policies (like an employee handbook or manual), employee agreements (like confidentiality or non-solicit agreements), a resignation letter, or emails, written notices, and text messages. Be sure to explain in your protest letter how the attached documents support your argument.
Receiving a notice from IDES will give any employer stress dreams. At G & G Law, we respond to many such claims for our newer clients (especially those in our Outside General Counsel program). Once we help them implement more effective employment policies, the IDES claims begin to diminish. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business succeed!