Recently, the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied unemployment benefits in three separate cases where employees were terminated for misconduct. In Blomker v. U.S. Federal Employees, Minn. Ct. App. # A15-0046 (Aug. 24, 2015 – unpublished), Ms. Blomker was discharged for insubordination for repeatedly failing to follow a supervisory directive to stop copying upper management on e-mails and for inappropriately grabbing a supervisor during an argument. Ms. Blomker admitted to grabbing her supervisor’s finger, but testified she did so because she was afraid for her own physical well-being. The Court of Appeals has previously held that, “An employee who intentionally physically contacts another in anger engages in employment misconduct.” Ms. Blomker also acknowledged she has been told to not copy upper management on e-mails and had been previously disciplined for violating that directive. The Court of Appeals determined there was substantial evidence to support the denial of unemployment benefits.
In Musa v. My Brothers’ Keeper, Minn. Ct. App. # A15-0092 (Aug. 24, 2015 – unpublished), the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the unemployment law judge (ULJ) denying unemployment benefits because Mr. Musa failed to attend a disciplinary meeting and engaged in disrespectful behavior. Mr. Musa challenged the ULJ’s findings that he engaged in disrespectful behavior and was aware of the July 14 meeting he failed to attend. The ULJ’s credited the testimony of the employer’s witnesses over the testimony of Mr. Musa, because it was detailed and specific. The Court of Appeals defers to a ULJ’s determination on credibility. The Court of Appeals upheld the ULJ’s findings.
In the third case, Montgomery v. AT&T Mobility Services, LLC, Minn. Ct. App. # A15-0173 (Oct. 5, 2015 – unpublished), Ms. Montgomery was discharged for using the store warranty policy to obtain goods for herself without paying for the merchandise, or following the procedures set forth in the warranty exchange policy. The ULJ found Ms. Montgomery’s failure to obtain a manager’s approval for the exchange as outlined in AT&T’s policy, was a serious violation of the standards of behavior an employer has the right to expect of an employee. Additionally, the ULJ found Ms. Montgomery was dishonest during the investigation regarding the warranty exchange. The Court of Appeals affirmed the ULJ decision.
The Minnesota Unemployment Compensation system is remedial by nature and favors awarding benefits to employees, except in cases of misconduct. Given the statutory recognition favoring awarding benefits, it is unusual for three separate cases to be decided in favor of the employer. The employers must have done an excellent job of documenting the employee misconduct in each case to persuade not only the ULJ, but the Court of Appeals as well.