As we enter a holiday weekend, my colleague, Mick Lavelle uncovered an odd circumstance of unemployment compensation law. He discusses it below. Have a great holiday weekend.
The old adage that crime does not pay has been slightly modified by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Employment Security Division, which administers unemployment compensation benefits.
Unemployment compensation is paid by the State to people who lose their jobs, unless they are disqualified for benefits.
Voluntarily quitting is a disqualification, as are various types of bad conduct listed in the unemployment compensation statutes [Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-236], such as larceny of currency, willful misconduct, knowing violations of reasonable rules, and “larceny of property or service, the value of which exceeds $25.”
You might think that some of these disqualifiers would overlap.
For example, stealing property, even of less than $25 in value, would undoubtedly be willful misconduct, and would also violate a reasonable rule in most if not all workplaces that theft from the company is grounds for discharge.
But in a ruling dating from 1997, the Unemployment Security Division Board of Review decided that the statutory reasons for disqualification should be read in the disjunctive, a legal term meaning mutually exclusive alternatives. The Board reasoned that larceny was a disqualifier exclusive of other misconduct, but that when property or services were taken instead of cash, the Legislature had permitted disqualification only if the value exceeded $25.
In other words, if an employee stole $20 worth of goods and was fired, he committed larceny, so that he could not be disqualified under another type of misconduct. But he didn’t steal more than $25 worth of property, so he couldn’t be disqualified under the larceny category either. In short, he could steal up to $25 of property and still collect unemployment compensation benefits.
Perhaps in this instance, the new adage is that petty crime sort of pays.