Even when an employee is terminated for cause, it can be difficult to fight an employee’s claim for unemployment benefits. A September 2017 ruling from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania may provide employers a new route to combat meritless unemployment claims. In most states, an unemployed individual may file for and receive unemployment benefits if he is out of work due to no fault of his own. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed a decision by the state’s unemployment board to deny a former painter at a metal company unemployment benefits because of a social media post he left after his departure from the company.
The painter claimed he was forced to resign his position because his employer insisted he work evening shifts. He claimed he was unable to work evenings because his wife worked in the evening and he needed to stay home to care for their four children. The painter subsequently filed for unemployment benefits. In response to his claim, the metal company pointed out that following his departure from the company, the painter published a post on social media stating, “Time for a change, Work decided to have 2nd, (Picked for that) don’t like, so chose not to… it’s choice you can make when retired. There are other jobs. time to relax for a while.” [sic]. The Commonwealth Court upheld the board’s decision to deny the painter unemployment benefits, finding that he failed to research available child care options which would allow him to go to work and that the post reflected that the painter “chose not to work,” and therefore did not have a compelling reason to resign his position.
The impulse to share personal details on social media outlets has likely inspired other former employees to share details after leaving their jobs. Companies seeking to oppose unemployment claims may consider monitoring public posts on social media to see whether their former employees have provided insight to friends, family, and the public about the reasons they are no longer employed.
The opinion in Gumpher v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review is available here.