Why no, I can’t claim it, but I sure can pay it

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

As I venture into my 54th year of continuing education on the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” comes the latest lesson from the great nanny state known as a “notice of decision.” I guess my last notice lesson from more than 10 years ago wasn’t fresh enough in my head to see this one coming.

For those of you who haven’t been unfortunate enough to have experienced making decisions about employees, this might need some explanation. The notice of decision to which I refer involves an unemployment claim from a part-time employee who began working for me over a year and a half ago and whose tenure at my company lasted about three months. The job involved assisting me with following up with advertisers for ad copy and some general tasks around the office. The job paid about $100 a week, plus possible commissions from sales that resulted from appointments that were set for me. So in this case, the job paid about $100 a week.

Now for the record, I admit I have little to no idea about the regulatory environment I do business in when it comes to the government and all of its ways to make sure jobs are difficult for people to come by. And yes, you can blame that on me, because I have no desire to enter those shark-infested waters. I mean, I realize taxes have to be paid, but only in the sense the folks who come after you for not paying them can make your life miserable. And I understand every (well, almost every) small business has to survive in this same environment in terms of unemployment laws, taxes and regulatory burdens. That said, I own a business for the most selfish of reasons: so I have a job. And yes, any other jobs that result from this fact are there for one other reason: to support me having a job.

And while my having a job that “creates” other jobs to support my job has a possibility of creating all kinds of jobs should my job grow exponentially, I can guarantee for the near future I won’t be hiring another assistant. It’s just not worth the risk, as minimal as that risk might seem to others. And I say that for the simplest of reasons as well: It comes out of my pocket, and now in this particular case, at the cost of an extra 33 percent penalty. 

This all began a while back when a friend suggested I hire an assistant to do the things I don’t like to do at the office (which for the record, is a lot of it).
I wasn’t really going to do it, but because it got put out into the cosmos, out of nowhere came a resume from someone looking for part-time work. After much self-goading, I decided to call this person up and have a cup of coffee. I have to admit, she worked out great. Then she left for full-time work elsewhere. So when it came time to replace that person, I figured I’d give it a try. And it worked out OK. Then that person moved out of town for several reasons and had a job where she moved. And being the nice guy I am (and we all know where they finish) I allowed part of their part-time job to be done remotely. And since there weren’t appointments coming from when this person was in town, there were even fewer, so the job paid for itself even less after the move. And then a year and a half later, I got the letter.

Now I don’t blame this person for requesting unemployment. After all, that’s the regulatory environment the state has created they are employed under. In a sense, they have that right based on the law. What puzzles — and scares — me is wondering just how much this going to cost me over the next year. After all, this claim is good for one year and we all know that unemployment these days comes with pretty much no expiration date. And I can tell you from experience the only other claim I ever had is still being paid off to this day.

In exactly what universe does this work? A small businessperson takes money out of his or her pocket to take a risk on a new employee. The job works out, but the person leaves for a better job elsewhere and the business owner has no recourse. That is a risk I accept. Or, the job created did not generate the revenue needed to justify its existence, so the business owner decides to eliminate it based on their knowledge of their business, and yes, the survival of their business. And from that comes an unemployment claim, to which the state says, “Here’s a penalty on top of all that cost and effort.” That is patently unfair and hurts employment.

But there’s good news on the horizon for business owners in Colorado. Well, for big business owners outside of Colorado, actually. “Tax Free Colorado” is coming where you can operate tax-free for 10 years and then leave the state. The rest of us will still be here, paying our unemployment claims along with all of your company’s taxes.

And for many of us, we’ll do that by not hiring someone.