My colleague, Chris Engler, is back today with post getting into the ins and outs of the willful misconduct standard at the Connecticut Department of Labor. Last week, we had a senior CTDOL official speak to our Labor & Employment seminar about this and other pressing topics of interest to employers.
The bottom line: When you fire an employee, the employee is probably going to get unemployment compensation unless you can show “wilful misconduct”. Here’s how:
You have caught an employee red-handed engaged in some misconduct. Or perhaps the employee has violated some rule on numerous occasions or in a particularly problematic manner. Either way, you investigate and decide to fire the employee.
Barring some sort of lawsuit for wrongful discharge, your ties with the employee are cut, right?
Wrong. You might still be on the hook for unemployment benefits.
Employers often assume that having a good reason for firing someone is enough to ensure that the employee doesn’t receive benefits.
But the law requires something more than just a good reason. (Dan discussed an example of this last year.)
The standard is “wilful misconduct.” (Yes, the regulations use “wilful” with only two Ls.)
This term has three subspecies: (1) deliberate misconduct in wilful disregard of the employer’s interest, (2) a single knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced rule or policy, and (3) absenteeism without good cause.
Of course, each of these subspecies has detailed definitions, but the terms are already fairly self-explanatory.
Although these terms might seem very legalistic, the Unemployment Board of Review (which reviews decisions of unemployment eligibility) employs a fairly fact-specific analysis.
In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at five cases and see if we can draw any lessons from each.