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Fired for Hanging Up the Phone on Customers

Updated : March 24th, 2023

Customer Service

Question by Barbara

I worked in a call center and was fired for hanging up on an annoying customer. I lost my cool. Can I still get unemployment?

Response: Fired for hanging up the phone on customers.

Hi Barbara,

Did you violate the policy of the employer?

You can’t get mad at customers. This always seemed to me (when I worked on behalf of employers) to be the policy I’d look out for if I were a customer service rep. The employer uses this policy all the time to terminate employment, and to great effect because they often provide recordings and system logs as evidence.

I myself really was in essence, a customer service rep without rules about my behavior on the phone, but even when an employer was venting on me my goal was to resolve, and if I couldn’t do that, I simply made sure my own butt was covered.

However, I was also completely aware that one of the policies I had to follow each and every time I dealt with a new client was that I had to be aware of and follow specific client procedures as well.

I’ll get to the point now,

I did this ALWAYS. Why? Because I’m the employee and they are the employer and they get to run the show as far as I’m concerned and as long as their expectations of me are reasonable.

Whether having to listen to a customer cussing, swearing, or using derogatory terms is reasonable is something open to interpretation.

In fact, it is the details of what happened that the reasonableness of the employer’s action of firing someone, leaves room for interpreting reasonableness.

Breaking a policy you are aware of and know is cause for immediate termination without warning is, basically unreasonable if you need that job.

So, claiming ignorance of the escalation policy is in my opinion, a bad defense because you making this excuse is something I tried to nail others on when preparing a case file to submit.

A choice not to make yourself aware of the employer’s rules and policies is for me, like trying to cross a busy highway right after you left the bar.

It’s unreasonable and just plain old bad judgment. They are the rules you play by at work after all.

When I saw that a former customer service rep was discharged for any type of procedural error, here’s what I needed from the employer to support a discharge for misconduct.

The copy of rule that was violated and the employees signed acknowledgment that they received the rules and policies so they could claim they were unaware.

If they were unaware, their signature is what was used to indicate negligence and intentional disregard of the employer’s rules.

And of course, first hand testimony from any employer witness needed to bring all the documents to life, as they are proof only when given a voice through testimony.

However, if a person was fired for a one time violation of a rule which didn’t include language that said a one time violation could be cause for termination, you can bet I wasn’t going to be the one to submit the progressive discipline policy which said you should have been warned at least two times first.

Of course, the employer could usually count on the former employee not to submit what should have been a progression of warnings and written reprimands leading to you finally being told, one more time and you’re outta here.

The basic premise used to fight back a denial of benefits is found in a definition of work misconduct (call avoidance is just a specified act of misconduct among many good cause reasons for being fired).

What you have to prove when fired:

On the other hand, mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies or ordinary negligence in isolated instances or good faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed ‘misconduct’ within the meaning of the statute.”

Additionally, anyone that apples for benefits should notice a state unemployment application asks questions to find out if you really knew how to avoid getting fired.

  1. Were you made aware of the employer’s rule?
  2. Did you violate the rule?
  3. Did you receive prior warnings?
  4. Were you made aware your job was in jeopardy?
  5. What was the final incident?

When you answer these questions honestly you are either doing so from your emotions which, in my opinion, often helps the employer fulfill their burden.

Most claimants are still feeling regretful they lost their job and are second guessing what they could have done differently.

But, the bottom line question about getting fired is, was it through no fault of your own.

There is no other reason to file for unemployment unless this is what you set out to prove to the state, because that’s who determines whether misconduct was committed or if you were fired for something other than misconduct.

Will you focus on the concepts behind the unemployment law when you apply for unemployment?

Those question are loaded questions when you’re feeling like you could have done something different. You’re applying while you’re still second guessing and trying to figure out what went wrong.

Choose your legal focus before you apply.

Many people that get fired immediately adopt that victim’s attitude,

That’s the wrong attitude to have when you answer those question, better you know why the questions are being asked.

The unemployment department first attempts to determine if you fit into the last part of the definition for misconduct, or the first part,

“The term ‘misconduct’ as used in (the disqualification provision) is limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employee’s duties and obligations to his employer.

The meaning of the statutes is contained in unemployment precedent decisions.

PS You can always email me a link to your state’s unemployment precedent decisions if you find it on your states unemployment website, I’ll add it to that page, but for now, just know that every single one I’ve found is most likely in a Q&A that I knew which state the person was dealing with.

Comments for Fired for hanging up the phone on customers.


terminated for call avoidance

by: Anonymous

I was terminated recently for alleged call avoidance..procedure is when I am talking to a customer then call suddenly drops, I have to call customer back if first attempt was routed to voicemail, I have to make a 2nd attempt and if by any chance still routed to voicemail then that is the time I have to leave a message. I was in training and I have ny mentors/ support and all if a sudden I was told that what I am doing is wrong, and there is a certain out outbound call I did whereas there was another person on the line that says hello then i hanged up , on which I remember it clearly it was my wavemate voice since we were trying to check if my headset is working, then they show me the screenshot of all the outbound calls I did except for the one that they accused me of dropping the phone when someone says hello on the other line

Hi Anon,

Did you just tell me you were terminated, while you were still in training?

That may very well be a relevant fact connected to how you should argue against any guilt implied by the employer, was WILLFUL work related misconduct.

Call avoidance, is in my experience, a valid, but also common reason used, when people in call centers get fired for other things, even if the phone system might of been acting up, or the trainer/supervisor changing the protocol. Hint, I have no idea what a wavemate voice might be.

But generally speaking, here is why I’m holding out hope for you collecting.

I know misconduct is something that becomes easier for an employer to prove, after an employee is out of training to do the job to the standards and expectations of the employer. Easier is relative to a basic question about the potential for misconduct.
Did the claimant receive a prior written warning, hopefully at least two, and the last of which emphasized further occurrences would put the job in jeopardy, resulting in further disciplinary action, up to and including being terminated for violating the employer’s rule, or policy found in the employee handbook.

Experience also tells me an employer may, may not have another document called a signed acknowledgment, that the employee received the employee handbook, so any claim that they weren’t aware of the rule they broke repeatedly, wasn’t because the employee didn’t make them aware of the rule, or other policies.

What other policy? Take for instance an employer’s progressive discipline policy, which provides the expectation an employee should be able to count on, before the employer follows through to terminate employment, unless the employee’s actions were so egregious, it could be argued ignoring the progressive discipline policy was a reasonable thing for the employer to do.



Hope your aren’t approved

by: Anonymous

I honestly hope you aren’t approved for unemployment. You don’t deserve it.

This is an older post, and if guesses mean much, I’d guess no, they did not end up collecting, because underlying pretty much the whole back and forth, was this unshakable feeling I had that this person was on a hunting expedition to justify what they felt self entitled to do, which is the reason they ended up discharged, just guessing though.




by: Anonymous

Hey Chris, forgot to mention in the appeals package I received from unemployment the employer attached 2 verbal notices, 1 written about call flow and nothing pertaining to profanity. How are those admissible and what is the point in sending that? In a previous message from you, you said for me to stick to the topics. Do I elaborate on their notices?

Hey Profanity,

If you want to see if coaching might help.. I’d probably be open, but frankly, I’m done trying to direct you from afar with only the details you’re willing to choose and share.



Clearly, I am not neutral, but I do practice being unbiased everyday, and it’s possible I forgot to add “ed” to work

by: Chris

I am capable of being objective and a touch overly analytic, when it comes to the ability to make an argument stick by being non-reliant on how only you feel about fault.

For instance, I think this question, as a comment, is taking the original question off topic and it’s quite possible I might of already answered those particular questions somewhere in the UI appeal Q&As and maybe, even specific to whatever state the hearing is to be held in.


fired for profanity

by: Anonymous

During a hearing when is it an appropriate time to state your case to the adjudicator or hearing officer? How long does in normally last.

Lastly, do you maintain neutral while helping to give guidance. In an earlier post I believe you stated that you work on behalf of the employer. Thank you for your reply.


Have you researched your issue?

by: Chris

I get why people get hung up when it comes to developing an argument to rebut their own misconduct and instead bring up things like throwing themselves at the mercy of those who are mandated to decide issues of law, but that emotional factor is often their biggest disadvantage in that it is often what is relied upon by employers (who do in fact pay for an unemployment benefits via taxes).

To be succinct so you cannot mistake what I’m saying – I think this will probably go the employer’s way, because you keep choosing to ignore the issue at hand and the employer rules which might support the fact your termination was an unreasonable choice by the employer for what occurred and might be argued to not be misconduct, or even substantial fault, if this was the first instance.

Using a profanity that was heard by a customer due to a one time inadvertent error, or malfunction of your mic. Correct?

What was that profanity? It matters because if I were the employer, I’d make sure the precise verbiage if horrendous, became central at the hearing.

Now, if the employer has as policy about the use of profanity in the workplace generally, it may still be your fault, but the question is, was whatever you said, intentional misconduct rising to a definition of such, or just due to carelessness/negligence of such a degree as to show substantial fault of a one time, or more inadvertent error anyone might be guilty of, but lacking some of those harsher elements of misconduct.

North Carolina unemployment law isn’t really anymore complex that any other state, but for some reason, employees/claimants struggle with the idea of arguing to law and how it is interpreted to work in their state.

Have you tried the NC Unemployment Precedent Manual?

It might help you to make your own call about whether you can win, or not because you have all those details in your mind.

As for bringing up scheduling conflicts with school and work and you chose to quit school, you would definitely be barking up the wrong tree altogether, as a job, trumps school every day of the week unless the conditions are right, which usually requires one being approved, for state approved training benefits that may require the person to quit stop gap employment.


Fired for using profanity

by: Anonymous

Thank you. But I’m still not certain if I have a leg to stand on.

NC employment laws are so complex. Do I have a chance at this hearing? It sounds like by your replies I may not. Should I just ask for sympathy and leniency in this case?

Seems as though the laws here always favor the employer. I feel as though because the Hours were being reduced drastically they were looking for reasons to fire people. They found one by stating I used profanity. Unfortunately my mic was not muted completely. Should I bring this to light also, the mic?

I’m just angry that this job took up my time and I even quit school because the hrs I was scheduled for not agreed to during initial interview would have overlapped my school schedule.


What’s Your Appeal Issue?

by: Chris

Every unemployment hearing has an issue listed and when the issue is misconduct, which usually includes reviewing for the lesser issue of substantial fault, the hearing is going to be focused on the final incident and whether the employer now can prove sufficiently they have sustained their burden of proving you at fault.

Your job at a hearing when fired and denied is to REBUT, or interfere with their ability to sustain that burden.

Now, you bring up a reason that might actually of been an ulterior reason for your discharge, however, if you want me to tell you how/if you can relate that, to the employer’s reasoning for your discharge, I’d want to personally review documents, particularly employer rules and policies relevant to the cause of your discharge.

I for one think it is always best to focus on what you can prove whether you have the burden , or not, instead of cluttering the issue at hand with information that may end up not helping your end goal, except as a distraction without proof.

Claimants lose hearings often because they don’t focus on proving what makes the employer’s good cause as unsustainable per law.

So why go off the relevant rails, possibly wasting your time and energy at your last shot to get benefits after an initial denial by throwing mud, unless you can make it stick to the issue as the cause for termination,

Meaning, how does a reduction in hours disprove an act of misconduct was committed by you?

Did you file a claim for partial unemployment benefits previous to being terminated?


Fired for profanity

by: Anonymous

Thank you for your reply. So are you saying that I should ask for reduced misconduct? Or substantial misconduct? I also forgot to mention that the call center reduced hours by 50% so the week I was fired I worked 26 hrs. 1 day I worked only 26 minutes. Am scheduled 11:30am to 11pm. Should I mention this during the phone hearing? North Carolina or should I keep it strictly about profanity and my headset not being on mute securely and customer didn’t hear profanity? Help., its on Thursday.


I think you have a tough road to hoe.

by: Chris

You have briefly stated a possible and sometimes legitimate argument that other people (including managers) do what you did and get away with using profanity,

However, two wrongs making a right is a weak argument to say the least.

It’s also not an easy argument to make stick especially, when one is attempting to say the employer did not uniformly enforce their own policy and therefore, may of condoned the behavior.

Or, basically responsible for negating their own rule, or relevant policy if they choose to use it to also terminate someone like you, for whatever their reason might be.

I assume you were also a subordinate employee without the authority to enforce the employer rules which means your opinion, is just that and therefore, quite possibly an uninformed opinion, or more likely, one you will learn you do not have the ability to prove.

The question you pose, is whether if managers get away with using profanity on a regular basis shouldn’t you also be able to break any rule and get away with it too?

Heck no.

The hearing problem is, given your position and that other subordinate employees are not often forthcoming to be witnesses against their current employer about employer disregard of, or lack of enforcement of rules, or policies, you’re still the one in an awkward position of rebutting the employer’s burden you did something wrong, which in my opinion may of been due to carelessness, or negligence, even if it was just a one time careless mistake.

There is a standard used in deciding fault or not and that is “what would a similar reasonable person” do, or say in the same circumstances.

If it was your first offense, or write-up, you may want to check into if you might reduce a misconduct disqualification to one of substantial fault, as the disqualification isn’t usually as harsh if a state has different levels such as misconduct, or substantial fault, which North Carolina does.



Fired for profanity

by: Anonymous

Was denied unemployment. Fired for profanity while my headset was not on mute. Hearing is try is week. However reading over company guidelines and it doesn’t state automatic dismissal. It does state that call avoidance is immediate dismissal. I read through with a fine tooth comb and it does state that failure to comply with any of these rules and standards MAY result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. There are other rules such as profanity that even the supervisors do on a continual basis. Do I stand a chance at the hearing. North Carolina.



help please

by: Anonymous


The question is, do you think what you did was work related misconduct, the fact that you were already on a final for call avoidance, however, doesn’t bode well for unemployment, does it?



by: Brandy

Okay here goes my manager put me on pip because schedule adherence even though i had fmla then yeah wow and at the same time for compliance call and our goal too but keep in mind i have fmla so when my sickly daughter was in hospital he end up moving my manager so he left company 2 weeks later i got fired from his manager wow been with company 7 years can i get unemployment?

If you were fired for attendance issues and the absences were covered per approved intermittent FMLA, you should certainly apply for unemployment.


Hanging up on customers

by: Anonymous

I was fired for misconduct due to the last call of the day in which a customer was repeatedly abusive and used profanity. Anyway, I started to get loud on the call and the incident was reported by one of my teamates to a team lead. When I had found out of this report I then went to the team lead to address the issue and the team lead said she was to go to a manager regarding the call. But before she could go to the manager I took the inititave to address the issue by using the “open door” policy. A meeting was set up within 20 minutes and i was in a room with a manager and a team lead going through the call. The manager seemed to be neutral, coaching what i should and should not have done, until the last part when i had advised her that I disconnected the call after repeatedly warning the customer(at least 5 or 6 times) I was going to disconnect. Finally I disconnected the call.

First: I admitted in my inablility to handle the call.
I admitted that I disconnected the call.
I admitted that I was confused about the Call Avoidance Policy, and that I did not know the procedure to escalate calls to a team resolutionist.

The manager stated she had to speak to the Department manager but i had told the manager that I wanted to speak to him directly. He was led into the room and it was discussed. Honestly, I believed that he would allow the manager’s to work with me on this. He allowed that I got time off the phones to do a side by side for the rest of the day. Nothing was said that a decision had to be made. But when I came back to work the next week, there were 3 managers crowding around my manager’s office, looking at me, I began to feel very uncomfortable. I was on the phone for approx 2 hours when my manager led me to another room to tell me that I had been dismissed. The other manager then walked in and began to recite the reason and what I should expect, that I will be receiving pay for the rest of the week. And to call HR for any problems. I was very humiliated, hurt, and upset that I demanded for my things at my desk using a stern voice. Then the security guard came in with my stuff and walked me out of the building.


Hang up customers

by: Anonymous

Could this possibly be T-Mobile? If, so a lot are being accused of this!


Same here

by: Anonymous

I was fired from a call center in November, have the unemployment benefits hearing Feb 8, for the same issue. I NEVER hung up on customers.


I was fired for the same thing

by: Anonymous

I was fired for hanging up on people as they dropped in to me. I NEVER did that intentionally ever. This all came about because I had issues with the guy that handled our phone lines and scheduling. I went to my supervisor over and over again about the way that he spoke to me and basically threatened that he had more control over my job than he thought I did. I didn’t get anywhere with going to my supervisor so I went to the department manager who told me that apparently I had a personal issue with this person and nothing was ever done. I then went to our integrity office and filed a formal complaint anonymously in fear of retaliation, and a month later I am fired. Turns out the evidence that they have against me is a report that was generated by this same person I had issues with. I applied for unemployment this week…I was fired on Tuesday and I am waiting to hear something. The employer already told me that they are going to fight me on this. So what are my chances of winning if they come in and tell a totally different story?

Tell me what you mean by a “different story”.

I’m not sure I’m following your reasoning?



I was fired for the same thing

by: Anonymous

I was never warned and according to the manager he said it is in the code of conduct. I never received the code of conduct policy when I got promoted to that department. I worked for that company for 6 years. I got promoted to the call center in June and I got fired in Oct. Can I collect?

Can I collect? Possibly, because you were never warned and as you say, you never received the code of conduct.

Unemployment departments like to know you were “made aware” of the rules and they also like to know that you had been previously warned your job could be in jeopardy if you broke the same rule repeatedly.



by: Anonymous

It was a temporary job that I had for more than a year and they didn’t have a policy like that.

Okay, if you say so, but it’s still important to find out if you did do it and if you had ever been warned not to do it prior to being terminated.

I also have to ask if you worked for a temporary staffing agency, what state you live in and whether you have asked for another assignment, because when you are a temp, the employer is the temp agency, not the client company.

You don’t need to answer these questions, just be aware that if I’m asking, it’s because the state will want to know also.


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