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Unemployment primer

Basics of Maryland Unemployment Benefits

Employers often receive a crash course in Maryland unemployment laws when a difficult employee is terminated (usually with good reason).  Frequently, the employer is distressed to learn that the employee, even with very atrocious behavior, can qualify for unemployment benefits.  Under Maryland law, terminated employees are eligible for unemployment benefits pursuant to an extensive set of statutes and regulations. 

Most surprising to employers is that employees are presumed to be entitled to unemployment benefits.  The dollar amount of benefit to which an employee is entitled is determined by statute and is based upon the amount of compensation at the time of termination.  The amount of benefit is determined as a weekly benefit.  The number of weeks of this monetary benefit is limited and can be reduced based upon the employee’s behavior which lead to the termination.   

Independent contractors are not entitled to unemployment benefits.  Employees who quit, or voluntarily terminate their employment without good cause, are also not entitled to benefits.  For all other qualified employees, the number of weeks of benefit can be reduced, depending on the cause of termination.  If Misconduct, Gross Misconduct or Aggravated Misconduct, are found to be the cause of termination, the number of weeks of benefits can be reduced or benefits can be eliminated all together.

Misconduct which leads to termination can lead to a finding of 5 to 10 weeks of reduced benefits (disqualification).  Either Gross Misconduct or Aggravated Misconduct can lead to substantial or complete disqualification.  Gross Misconduct means conduct of an employee that is in "deliberate and willful disregard of standards of behavior that an employing unit rightfully expects and that shows gross indifference to the interests of the employing unit; or (ii) repeated violations of employment rules that prove a regular and wanton disregard of the employee's obligations."

Aggravated Misconduct means "behavior committed with actual malice and deliberate disregard for the property, safety, or life of others that (i) affects the employer, fellow employees, subcontractors, invitees of the employer, members of the public, or the ultimate consumer of the employer's product or services; and (ii) consists of either physical assault or property loss or damage so serious that the penalties of misconduct or gross misconduct are not sufficient."

The determination of unemployment benefits is made through a process of increasingly complex review by fact finders assigned by the State of Maryland.  An initial claim for benefits, if opposed by the employer, is set for a telephone interview.  If either the employer or employee is unhappy with the result, an appeal can be filed.  An in-person hearing will be set at which a hearing examiner presides over an adversarial hearing.  Witnesses and evidence can be presented.  A written decision issued by the hearing examiner can be further reviewed by the Board of Appeals.  Upon review and determination by the Board of Appeals, appellate review lies with the State’s Circuit Courts.

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