This article is to remind Illinois employers about an important amendment to the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act (which took effect over two years ago on January 3, 2016). The amendment broadened the misconduct definition by adding eight work-related behaviors which automatically disqualify the Claimant (i.e., ex-employee who filed for unemployment insurance benefits) from receiving unemployment insurance benefits due to misconduct.
The Wisconsin Unemployment Compensation Act defines "misconduct" to include "absenteeism on more than 2 occasions within the 120-day period before the date of the employee's termination, unless otherwise specified by [the] employer in an employment manual [which the employee has acknowledged receiving]." Wis. Stat. § 108.04(5)(e). What if the employer's attendance policy defines excessive absenteeism, and grounds for termination, in a manner that is more restrictive than "2 occasions in a 120-day period?" Is it still "misconduct" for unemployment purposes?
In Minnesota, as in most every state, terminated employees are not eligible for unemployment benefits if they are dismissed for misconduct. In 2003, the legislature amended the statute to define "employment misconduct" as "any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job that displays clearly: (1) a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee, or (2) that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment." However, despite this effort to more clearly define employee misconduct for purposes of unemployment compensation, there remains plenty of room for disagreement, depending upon the facts in each particular case. This dilemma was recently born out in Wilson v. Mortgage Resource Center, Inc. The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals that had found an employee's misrepresentations about her education on her job application, did not constitute "employment misconduct." In disagreeing with the Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court in effect recognized that employers have the right to reasonably expect the truth from job applicants. Still, the outcome of this case was determined by the particular facts of the case and therefore employers can learn from (and take advantage of) its lessons.
In 2013, the Wisconsin legislature tightened the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits as they related to discharges for attendance. Under the previous law, an employee had to have "5 or more" absences without notice in a twelve-month period in order for his/her absenteeism to rise to the level of statutorily-defined misconduct. The legislature reduced that level to "more than 2 [absences] within a 120-day period . . . unless otherwise specified by [the] employer in an employment manual. . ." Wis. Stat. § 108.04(5)(e). (The employee must also have failed to provide both notice and a valid reason for the absence.)
There are many good reasons for which a company fires one of its employees. Some of these reasons are:
In this case, American Airlines looks like a harsh and unreasonable employer. The Claimant was an American Airlines employee who was fired by American Airlines for merely helping a passenger obtain a seating upgrade and also giving the passenger some champagne for the flight.