It looks like you are in North Carolina. I did a little online research.
Links below. Note especially the case I dug up. It is the only one I found somewhat similar to your situation so it may not be directly applicable but it does seem to indicate that in the absence of written disciplinary procedures that the benefit of the doubt is given to the employee. It also implies that they need to follow their procedures, which should be obvious.
If I get another chance I'll see if I can find something more specific on spoken versus written warnings in case they do have a detailed written disciplinary procedure.
North Carolina Unemployment Insurance Benefits http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/l...oyment_NC.html
Eligibility for North Carolina Unemployment Benefits:You must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own as defined under North Carolina law.
For complete details see the Unemployment Insurance section of the “Employment Security Commission of North Carolina”http://www.ncesc.com/
Here are some tips for filing a correct and complete unemployment claim:
Be prepared to show that your unemployment is not your fault. Keep handy any written notification of your layoff, termination, or severance that you may have received.
BRAD BOYLAND, Petitioner, v. SOUTHERN STRUCTURES, INC. and EMPLOYMENT SECURITY COMMISSION OF NORTH CAROLINA, RespondentsNO. COA04-1235. Filed: 2 August 2005http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/publi...5/041235-1.htmId. Section 96-14(2a) is “to be strictly construed in favor of the claimant, and the employer has the burden of proving that the claimant is disqualified.”
Featherston, 96 N.C. App. at 104, 384 S.E.2d at 308 (citing Barnes v. The Singer Co., 324 N.C. 213, 376 S.E.2d 756 (1989)). The essence of the statute is that if an employer establishes a reasonable job policy to which an employeecan conform, failure to conform constitutes substantial fault. Lindsey v. Qualex, Inc., 103 N.C. App. 585, 406 S.E.2d 609 (1991). In the present case, the referee found that “[t]he employer does not have an employee handbook nor does she have a list of company rules and regulations.” Where there is no formal set of rules to use as a reference, we rely on the Commission's findings as to the employer's policy.
See Doyle v. Southeastern Glass Laminates, 104 N.C. App. 326, 333, 409 S.E.2d 732, 735-36 (1991) (Cozort, J., dissenting), rev'd per curiam, 331 N.C. 748, 417 S.E.2d 236 (1992).
****To establish that an employee is substantially at fault for minor infractions, the employer must demonstrate that the employee violated a rule after having been warned by the employer.
Featherston, 96 N.C. App. at 104, 384 S.E.2d at 308. Therefore, to support a conclusion of law that an employee is substantially at fault for minor rule infractions, ESC must enter specific findings of fact that (1) the employer warned the employee that his actions were in violation of the rules, and (2) the employee violated the rules again after having been warned.
...Typically, in substantial fault cases there is a point system for rule violations, see Lindsey, or a system of written warnings for rule violations, see Davis and Doyle. The employee is usually notified that he will be discharged upon losing all of his points, or once he has accumulated a certain number of written warnings. However, in the present case, the Commission's findings of fact do not indicate that the employer used a formal point system or written warning system to reprimand its employees.
Finding of fact 13 indicates that employer asked petitioner several times to submit log notes after petitioner failed to do so. However, it is not clear that those requests constituted a warning. As noted supra, the substantial fault statute is to be strictly construed in the employee's favor. In cases such as this, where the employer does not have an employee handbook, a list of rules and regulations, or a formal system of reprimand, it is especially important to construe the statute in the employee's favor because the rules and method of reprimand are at the complete discretion of the employee's supervisor.