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By Pierce Kelley

 S.P. of Archer asks, “I recently lost my job but when I applied for unemployment I was told that I wasn’t eligible because my employer said I was let go due to misconduct, which wasn’t true. What can I do about that?”

Dear S.P.;

Under Florida law, you are eligible for benefits if you are “laid off,” dismissed or furloughed from a job due to no fault of your own. You must also have earned $3,400 in the last 4 calendar quarters. You are also eligible for benefits if your hours are reduced, too. However, if you quit a job or if you are fired for good cause, your claim will be denied, which is what apparently has happened to you.

In these difficult economic times, some employers might be looking for ways to terminate employees and avoid being charged for unemployment compensation claims by saying that the employees had violated company rules or otherwise committed an act which justified the firing, even if it is just a pretense for the termination. If that is what happened in your case, you must appeal that adverse decision and you must do so within twenty (20) calendar days of the date on which the Notice of Determination was mailed or you will lose your right to appeal.

The hearing on your appeal will most likely be conducted by telephone and you will have the opportunity to give sworn testimony, present witnesses and ask questions of your former employer. You will need to prove that you did not commit any misconduct and that you were let go for other reasons. Of course, if you were terminated because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, gender, religion or marital status that is another matter altogether as that might constitute Employment Discrimination.

Needless to say, your chances of winning are much better if you have an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can call the closest Legal Services office, which provides free legal assistance to qualified individuals, or call the Florida Bar Referral service at 1-800-342-8011. I hope I answered your question and I wish you good luck in pursuing justice. 

The foregoing was written by attorney Pierce Kelley, who is a member of the Florida Bar Association. The contents reflect his personal opinions and beliefs.