November 2016 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis
The claimant was discharged for negligently handling medication. She was disqualified from benefits upon a finding that she was discharged for misconduct connected with the work. The claimant appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.
At the Hearing
The Employer’s Evidence: The employer testified that the claimant, a health aide, was discharged after the employer discovered that she had dropped newly delivered controlled medication into the trash and had left it there. The trash was removed shortly after and the medication was lost. The employer’s review of video in the room revealed that the claimant looked into the trash and still held a document that came with the medication which should have been with the bottle. The claimant had not been assigned the duty of handling the medication, but took it upon herself to deliver it to the medication room. When confronted with the video, the claimant apologized for what she termed a “mistake.” She had received several prior warnings about negligently handling medications, had all medication responsibility removed from her job duties, and had been informed that another incident could lead to the termination of her employment.
The Claimant’s Evidence: The claimant testified that, on the date of the final incident, she’d made a mistake that anyone could make, and that she did not realize she’d dropped the medication in the trash. She testified that she had been experiencing low blood sugar and was feeling very stressed due to being overworked, having her medication duties taken away, and working in an understaffed facility. When questioned about the fact that she was standing over the trash can and had looked into it prior to walking away, the claimant reiterated her earlier testimony that she did not know she’d dropped the medication into the trash and she’d simply made an error.
The Hearing Decision
The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant was discharged for misconduct connected with the work and the claimant remained disqualified from benefits. The claimant had had several prior warnings regarding handling medications, and had the duty to her employer to handle them properly. The claimant disagreed and appealed, arguing that her actions were not misconduct because she did not deliberately throw the medication in the trash, and because she was not responsible for her actions due to her feelings of stress.
The Board of Review Decision
The Board of Review affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and found that it was fully supported by the hearing record. Even if the claimant did not throw the medicine in the trash deliberately, she was aware that the medicine was lost because she still held the document that came with it. She had the duty to the employer to keep the medication secure. The claimant’s repeated negligence despite warning rose to the level of misconduct connected with the work. The disqualification remained in effect.
- Negligence can lead to a finding of misconduct if it is repeated despite specific warnings. In this case, the claimant had been warned several times about handling medicine and had even had her medication duties taken away. She had breached the duty she owed the employer to handle medications securely. In cases of repeated negligence, be prepared to prove that the claimant had been warned previously and was aware that further incidents could result in discharge.
- Specific evidence regarding the claimant’s actions should be presented at hearing. In this case, the employer was able to testify to exactly what the claimant did with the medication and the documentation. The testimony proved that there were several factors that led to a reasonable conclusion that the claimant knew the medication was not handled correctly and had not addressed it. Testimony about what someone saw on a video is considered hearsay and generally does not carry much evidentiary weight. In this case, the claimant did not dispute what the employer testified to having seen on the video. If the claimant had denied any of her actions as reported by the employer, the video would have been the best evidence to present to persuade the Administrative Law Judge that the employer’s version of events was correct.
To learn how Equifax can help your organization with unemployment case management, contact Pete Krieshok at pete.krieshok@Equifax.com.
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