The proliferation of social media usage is giving employers more and more reasons to fire employees and most interestingly, to use that social media participation as a basis to deny unemployment benefits to the ex-employee. In fact, employers seem to like to point to social media usage more for denying benefits than even for prompting the discharge itself. Often a discharge will be prompted by other various reasons, or sometimes no reason at all in an at-will employment state like Iowa, but the basis for the discharge must be a very specific type in order for the employee to be denied unemployment insurance benefits. If the employer cannot prove the employee engaged in misconduct of some sort, it is likely the employee will be eligible to receive benefits after he or she is terminated. This of course is good news for the employee, our client, but bad news for the employers. In addition, the employer has the burden to provide the evidence that misconduct occurred and was subsantial enough to justify denying the employee benefits guaranteed under Iowa law to unemploye persons trying to get by without their usual income. Because of this, employers are always looking for ways to present this "evidence" that an employee did something wrong to justify the denial of benefits and guarantee that the employer will not have to pay the ex-employee benefits - something all employers would rather not do.
Social media sites provide the perfect opportunity for employers to point to as a source of "misconduct" - for example, if the employer can successfully present evidence showing that they both had a policy prohibiting use of social media during work hours (which the employee was aware of) and that the employee in fact used his or her social media during those work hours, the employer has proven that the employee knowingly violated a work policy. This "misconduct" may in fact be enough to deny the ex-employee unemployment benefits. And employers are able to access information to determine the timing of social media access in order to prove their case; websites such as those run by ADP even guide employers to understand how to have a better chance of proving misconduct through social media usage.
If you were recently terminated and your former employer is accusing you of engaging in misconduct, related to social media usage or otherwise, give us a call today so we can help you navigate the law in order to protect your right to unemployment benefits.