This was recently posted by Bud Fox in the forum, but I wanted to make sure it gets more eyeballs so I’m re-posting it here on the front page of the blog. There’s a link to the forum entry at the end of the post where you can go for discussion, or as always you can just comment below this post.Have you been unjustly denied unemployment benefits by JPMorgan Chase?
I am trying to collect information for a possible class action about individuals who have been terminated for reasons other than gross misconduct and were subsequently denied benefits by JPMorgan Chase. In particular, I am looking for situations that may have violated the letter and/or spirit of the labor and employment laws of the State of New York.
However, it seems to be standard procedure for JPM Chase to automatically oppose unemployment benefits in all states.
After serving as a Relationship Banker in a branch in New York, I was terminated for “performance” issues. The issues were inconsistent achievement of branch goals, namely the “5 checking accounts per month” and disagreements over arbitrary managerial imposed administrative tasks that interfered with my time and ability to engage in activities that would likely generate new money and revenue- in effect sabotaging my production. It was a case of damned if I do- take time away from calls and research to work with non-productive customers that at times were abusing Branch resources, including frequent notarizations for their business and unreasonable time demands far beyond what was necessary to service their often small relationships- or damned if I don’t- which would result in criticism and bad reviews.
Additionally, I had performance reviews presented to me that were potentially libelous, and furthermore, prejudicial toward my character. Management made claims about my work approach, trust and goodwill that were without merit, nor could such assertions be objectively substantiated. These biased and unnecessarily negative claims damaged my potential for a further career at JPMorgan Chase. These reviews are also possible sources of litigation.
I was terminated for doing what made me successful in the past- and is again bringing me success today as a financial advisor- tracking down the money, and targeting those individuals who will be most productive for me and for the Firm. Management in my Branch was more concerned that every customer had a big smile than whether they made any money. The individual who constantly bounced checks and kept $200 in their account was supposedly just as much of a priority than my Chase Private Client customer who wanted to bring $250,000 of new savings account money into the Branch. Hell, they even chased customers down the street who were aggravated at Chase and were clearly in the wrong, begging them to come back in and please, please, please, how can we make you happy? They were more concerned with keeping customers that cost the Branch money, as opposed to acquiring and growing lucrative relationships. This is a bank, not Mother Teresa’s soup kitchen.
I was not completely surprised when I was terminated, since the gulf of disagreement on fundamental issues between me and Branch management had grown wider and more contentious. Management had recently sabotaged my effort to become a JPMorgan in-branch Private Client Financial Advisor, a role for which I was qualified based on my resume and securities licenses and my client management and development skills.
I was called into the manager’s office at about 4 on a Friday afternoon and told that I no longer worked for Chase. I was told that the reasons were “general sales performance”. I asked for supporting documents, such as a separation letter or other relevant paperwork. The Manager refused. I asked for a copy of the Recommendation for Termination from which he was reading. Again, he was uncooperative. I left without knowing many of the details of my termination or how I should proceed. I was not even sure if I was let go for “cause” or for revenue related factors, which, under the law, is not considered “cause” that would deny unemployment. Included in that definition is failure to generate sufficient revenue or make goals, which I reasonably believed was a prime factor in my termination.
I applied for New York State Unemployment Benefits the following Monday, using “lack of work” as the reason, on the advice of an individual familiar with unemployment administration who said that it was the choice that best reflected losing one’s job based on revenue shortfalls. Again, the general position of New York State is to allow unemployment benefits to workers terminated involuntarily for “lack of work” or even not meeting goals, as long as no gross misconduct has occurred.
This word, “misconduct”, would play a very large role in the next few months.
When New York State Unemployment contacted Chase for confirmation, Chase responded with a protest to my collecting benefits that included the word “misconduct”, which is a disqualifying factor in New York State. I was shocked. This is the first that I had heard of this alleged “misconduct”- it was never mentioned in my termination meeting, nor in any prior communications to me from JPMorgan Chase. Consequently, I was considered to have filed a false claim by the State of New York, and was denied benefits.
I called an unemployment attorney immediately and he advised me to appeal their protest in writing, and challenge Chase to produce valid evidence that constituted “misconduct” under the New York State employment laws. I filled out the unemployment appeal form which asked for more details and sent it in. Over the next few weeks, New York State Unemployment contacted JPMorgan Chase for their side, and was directed to their consultants at Ernst and Young. Ernst and Young sent a package of documents on behalf of Chase regarding my termination to New York State Unemployment. After reviewing the packet, Unemployment could not find anything that constituted “misconduct”, reversed their assertion that I filed a false claim, agreeing that I did so in good faith, and restored my prior and current benefits payable within the next week.
Although I was still irritated with Chase, I was somewhat satisfied that the benefits for which I qualified were being paid, and I continued with my job search.
A few weeks after that, I received notice that Chase demanded an administrative hearing to again attempt to deny me my rightful benefits, based on this yet to be justified “misconduct” assertion.
I again reached out to an attorney who assisted me in preparing a rebuttal and defense based on the lack of information from JPMorgan Chase regarding the actual details of my termination, and their lack of substantiation of this supposed “misconduct” allegation. On discovery, we obtained the Ernst and Young dossier that was sent to New York State Unemployment. In it were several documents- supposedly never to be shared with me- that I had requested in the past, including my Recommendation for Termination form. Its reasoning was as my manager told me that day- performance issues- along with a supposed customer issue that I had no knowledge of that happened a few days before I was terminated. However, the law says that if termination was based on a particular act, that it must occur on the day of the act, and not after. Therefore, they could not use that supposed dispute as “misconduct” and the only grounds for termination would be ongoing “performance”, which is a legitimate reason to terminate an employee, however it is not recognized as misconduct.
Prior to the hearing, with the help of an attorney, I submitted my position in writing using the above reasoning that Chase had not previously and still did not produce any evidence of behavior that qualified as misconduct.
I arrived at the Administrative Hearing with the attorney and encountered my former manager alone, without any other Chase employees, nor with counsel or a consultant.
We were soon called into the meeting room with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). She opened the hearing by stating that she was not going to hear the case that day since there was nothing to discuss, and was ready to rule in my favor by default. She reported that Chase did not produce any substantive information to support their claim of “misconduct”. My benefits were to continue, although Chase had the right to reopen the proceedings if they could bring actionable evidence of “misconduct”.
They requested no further hearings, and I collected my full allotment of unemployment benefits, before starting a financial advisor position at a major competitor.
In my experience, and from what I have heard from others, JPMorgan Chase will do whatever they can to deny unemployment benefits to employees, including making defective “for cause” claims involving “misconduct”. I was very fortunate to have had the personal and legal resources to assert my rights, although I fear that few others can or would take this path. It is time consuming, frustrating and can be expensive if you do not have access to professional legal or administrative consultation at below market cost.
I would like to hear from you- were you denied unemployment benefits by JPMorgan Chase, especially if the means employed involve defective and unsubstantiated claims using disqualifying language such as “misconduct”.