Discharged From A Job

This information is a general overview of unemployment benefits law. This is not legal advice. An attorney is your best source of advice for your specific case.

  • I was discharged; what do I need to show at my hearing?
  • What is “misconduct”?
  • I made a mistake. Is that misconduct?
  • My employer was unhappy with the quality of my work. Is that misconduct?

  • I was discharged, what do I need to show at my hearing?

    If you were discharged from your job, your employer must prove “misconduct” (see below). If your employer can prove your actions amounted to misconduct, the judge will deny you benefits.

    Because the employer has the “burden” of proving their case, they will go first in presenting their witnesses and documents. After the employer finishes presenting their evidence, you will want to show that your actions did NOT amount to misconduct. You can show this in two different ways. First, you can try to show that you did not do what your employer accuses you of doing. For example, if you were fired for stealing, you may want to show that it was not you who stole the item. Second, you can tell the judge that your actions were not misconduct by showing that you made a good faith error in judgment; it was a one-time mistake; or that you just weren’t good at your job.

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    What is “misconduct”?

    The following is the definition of misconduct under the law (RCW 50.04.294):

    With respect to claims that have an effective date on or after January 4, 2004:
    (1) “Misconduct” includes, but is not limited to, the following conduct by a claimant:
    (a) Willful or wanton disregard of the rights, title, and interests of the employer or a fellow employee;
    (b) Deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of an employee;
    (c) Carelessness or negligence that causes or would likely cause serious bodily harm to the employer or a fellow employee; or
    (d) Carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence to show an intentional or substantial disregard of the employer’s interest.

    Basically, the law says that you must do something purposefully to harm or potentially harm your employer. For example, if you purposefully break a rule or if you acted carelessly many times, you may be found to have been discharged for misconduct.

    The law specifically lists certain actions to be misconduct. The list can be found below and at RCW 20.04.294(2). The italicized text is NOT part of the statute. We put it there to help you understand the law.

    (2) The following acts are considered misconduct because the acts signify a willful or wanton disregard of the rights, title, and interests of the employer or a fellow employee. These acts include, but are not limited to:
    (a) Insubordination showing a deliberate, willful, or purposeful refusal to follow the reasonable directions or instructions of the employer (refusing to do what your employer tells you to do);
    (b) Repeated inexcusable tardiness following warnings by the employer (you were warned several times about being late, and then you were fired after showing up late again);
    (c) Dishonesty related to employment, including but not limited to deliberate falsification of company records, theft, deliberate deception, or lying (lying on timecards, stealing items, lying to your supervisor or co-workers);
    (d) Repeated and inexcusable absences, including absences for which the employee was able to give advance notice and failed to do so (not calling in or showing up for work);
    (e) Deliberate acts that are illegal, provoke violence or violation of laws, or violate the collective bargaining agreement. However, an employee who engages in lawful union activity may not be disqualified due to misconduct (breaking the law while working, acting violent in the workplace);
    (f) Violation of a company rule if the rule is reasonable and if the claimant knew or should have known of the existence of the rule (you knew about a rule but you broke that rule anyway); or
    (g) Violations of law by the claimant while acting within the scope of employment that substantially affect the claimant’s job performance or that substantially harm the employer’s ability to do business (while working, you broke a law; by breaking that law, you were not able to do your job or you hurt your employer’s ability to do business).

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    I made a mistake, is that misconduct?

    The law specifically lists certain actions that are NOT misconduct. The list can be found below and at RCW 20.04.294(3). The italicized text is NOT part of the statute. We put it there to help you understand the law.

    “Misconduct” does not include:

    (a) Inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity (You were simply not good at your job; for example, you didn’t work fast enough or you were not able to perform certain aspects of the job);
    (b) Inadvertence or ordinary negligence in isolated instances (You made a one-time mistake); or
    (c) Good faith errors in judgment or discretion (You accidentally made an error in judgment).

    See RCW 50.04.294(3).

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    My employer was unhappy with the quality of my work, is that misconduct?

    The law specifically lists certain actions that are NOT misconduct. The list can be found below and at RCW 20.04.294(3). The italicized text is NOT part of the statute. We put it there to help you understand the law.

    “Misconduct” does not include:

    (a) Inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity (You were simply not good at your job- for example, you didn’t work fast enough, you were not able to perform certain aspects of the job);
    (b) Inadvertence or ordinary negligence in isolated instances (You made a one-time mistake); or
    (c) Good faith errors in judgment or discretion (You accidentally made an error in judgment).

    See RCW 50.04.294(3).

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