Can unemployment benefits be denied for poor work performance in PA?

Many people who are terminated for “poor work performance” are wondering if they will be denied Pennsylvania unemployment benefits. In our last article, we discussed the reasons unemployment compensation benefits are denied. To summarize, PA UC benefits are denied for the following three reasons: (1) you voluntarily quit; (2) willful misconduct; and (3) you did work for the employer long enough (16 weeks).

Wilfull misconduct is found when the employer’s interest is disregarded by the employee. The next question becomes, is poor work performance considered willful misconduct under PA UC laws? The answer is no, you will not be denied unemployment benefits for poor work performance unless the board finds that it was intentional or willful. If it is found that you intentionally failed to work to the best of your ability, your UC benefits may be denied.

In order for there to be willful misconduct, the employer will have the burden of establishing conduct that was intentional, done knowingly, or willful. There are clear violations when an employee knowingly violates a work rule established by the employer. Additionally, when an employee disregards and employer’s simple and clear instructions without cause, the board will also find willful misconduct.

Willful misconduct has been defined by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as:

a) wanton or willful disregard for an employer’s interests; b) deliberate violation of an employer’s rules; c) disregard for standards of behavior which an employer can rightfully expect of an employee; or d) negligence indicating an intentional disregard of the employer’s interest or an employee’s duties or obligations.

The following definition of misconduct also helps determine what is and what is not willfull misconduct.

“The term ‘misconduct’ as used in (the disqualification provision) is limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest as is found in deliberate violations of disregard of the standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee. On the other hand, mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies or ordinary negligence in isolated instances or good faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed ‘misconduct’.”

If you have been denied UC benefits in PA and would like representation for an appeal, please contact me by calling (484) 362-9286. Please be aware that you only have 15 days to appeal a denial of unemployment compensation benefits.

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