May 2016 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis
The claimant was discharged for being absent without approval. The claimant was allowed benefits upon a finding that she was discharged, but not for misconduct connected with the work. The employer appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.
At the Hearing
The Employer’s Evidence: The employer posted a schedule with the claimant scheduled to work the weekend of Thanksgiving. The claimant informed the employer that she had purchased plane tickets earlier in the month to take a trip to see her family for a week, despite not having sufficient vacation time to cover it. The employer informed the claimant that she could have some days off, but not the day of Thanksgiving or the day after. The claimant attempted to find someone to work her shifts, but could not. She took the trip despite being scheduled to work and was discharged when she returned.
The Claimant’s Evidence: The claimant testified that when she purchased the plane tickets, she was not scheduled to work for the time she would be away. Once the schedule was posted and she saw she was scheduled for much of the time she’d planned to be away, she requested the time off. When told she could have a number of days off but not Thanksgiving or Black Friday, she tried to find a coworker to take her shifts but was unsuccessful. She testified that she was unable to change the tickets because doing so would have been prohibitively expensive. She took her trip, and was discharged when she returned to work due to her failure to appear for the two scheduled shifts.
The Hearing Decision
The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant was discharged, but not for misconduct connected with the work. The ALJ allowed benefits, finding that the burden on the claimant of changing the pre-purchased plane tickets gave her good cause to miss work. The employer disagreed and appealed, arguing that the claimant did not have good cause for the absences because the claimant purchased the plane tickets prior to the posting of the schedule, failed to request the time off in advance, and planned her long vacation knowing she had limited vacation time available to her.
The Board of Review Decision
The Board of Review agreed with the Administrative Law Judge and the ALJ’s decision remained in effect. The Board found that the ALJ’s decision was supported by the record of evidence and the law. While the employer may have made a good business decision to fire the claimant, her actions failed to rise to the level of misconduct connected with the work under that state’s law. The claimant was allowed benefits.
1. The reason the claimant was absent from work on the date of the final incident is a significant factor in attendance cases. In this case, because the claimant had already purchased the tickets and was not scheduled to work at the time of their purchase, the claimant’s absence was with good cause. Please note: This decision might have been different in another state. Other states could have found that the claimant’s failure to request time off before the ticket purchase, and the fact that she knew she did not have sufficient vacation time to cover the days, were a deliberate disregard of the employer’s interests and might have resulted in a finding of misconduct.
2. Whether or not the employer was justified in discharging the claimant is not relevant in an unemployment claim. The reason the claimant was discharged will determine whether she will be disqualified from benefits. The state’s laws regarding unemployment claims will guide the outcome of the case regardless of whether the employer had a good reason to discharge her. When arguing a case in an unemployment matter, focus on whether the claimant’s actions should be disqualifying under state law, not whether you were justified in the decision to discharge.
Your unemployment consultants can answer your questions about unemployment claims, and the differences in decisions from state to state.
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