How to Lower Unemployment Costs

By Jessica Sherrill

Almost five years ago, I nervously walked into the Oklahoma State School Boards Association office for an interview to become a staff attorney. I remember being asked what I knew about unemployment. I’m sure I paused, and remembering my interview manners, replied that I knew nothing but would be interested in learning. I left that interview puzzled. What do schools and unemployment have to do with each other?   When I was hired, I found out that I was inheriting an unemployment program to represent more than 300 Oklahoma public schools. I got to work doing what any new attorney would do --  I found everything I could on Oklahoma’s unemployment laws.

I had certain preconceived notions: Employees pay a tax for unemployment. (Wrong!) When you file for unemployment, you are entitled to it after working for so many years. (Wrong!) Employers just pay some of it, but what? (Sorta wrong.) I had to throw out everything I thought I knew about unemployment.

Once I realized that employers do have control over their unemployment costs, I felt a little guilty that I’d be helping to block former school employees from getting unemployment payments. This feeling is shared by some of my school clients as well. I decided to find the silver lining. I was helping kids --  indirectly, but still, saving money for schools means that more resources are available for students.

I have to admit I’m slightly obsessed with unemployment and how schools can save millions of dollars with careful navigation through the unemployment process. Following are my lessons learned, with hopes you can navigate the system better, and ultimately, save money.

Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.