What shouldI do if I was terminated due to a minor infraction and am now being denied unemployment?

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What shouldI do if I was terminated due to a minor infraction and am now being denied unemployment?

A little over a month ago I was let go from my full-time position. I was not feeling well and grabbed a drink, I drank it and left it on the counter. Between it being a holiday and it was rather busy and me not feeling well, I forgot to pay for the drink but it remained on the counter. I never took it with me and it was a complete and total honest mistake. I had been there 6 years and never in real trouble with them before (this was the first and only incident). I was denied unemployment. Can I request a hearing? I don’t know how much of a leg I have to stand on. Is it worth it? Should I sue?

Asked on July 20, 2011 New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you do not have an employment contract (including a union agreement) covering your position and detailing the grounds or procedure for termination, you are an "employee" at will. As an employee at will, you may, unfortunately, be fired at any time, for any reason. Therefore, your employer may terminate you for this mistake, as minor as it may be and as unfair as it seems.

As to unemployment: you can and should appeal and explain your side  of the story. The employer is probably characterizing this as termination for cause--for theft (of the soda) or violation of workplace rules. You want to explain the circumstances, so the unemployment office knows it was not. That's not to say you'll definitely win; but it's definitely worth trying.


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