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August 27, 2010

Disciplinary action could affect eligibility for Unemployment Insurance

Disciplinary action could affect eligibility for Unemployment Insurance
Cuevas v Sweeney, 246 A.D.2d 718

Sometimes an employee who has been dismissed from his or her position as a result of disciplinary action will file for unemployment insurance benefits. Typically the Unemployment Insurance Board will hold that the individual is disqualified from receiving such benefits because his or her employment was terminated for misconduct. Can the board rely on the disciplinary determination as the basis for denying the claim? Yes, it may, as the Cuevas decision by the Appellate Division illustrates.

Naptale Cuevas, a Mental Hygiene Therapy Aide employed by a State agency, was found guilty of abusing and threatening his supervisor with physical harm. An arbitrator issued the decision after a disciplinary grievance hearing conducted in accordance with the provisions of a Taylor Law agreement.

The arbitrator ruled that dismissal was appropriate based on Cuevas’ being found guilty of the charges and the fact that Cuevas “previously had carried out a physical assault upon a security guard.” The Court said that the Board properly gave collateral estoppel* effect to the arbitrator’s determination when it ruled that Cuevas had lost his job under disqualifying misconduct.

* The doctrine of collateral estoppel is used in situations where the conclusiveness of a judgment in a prior action involving the same parties is applied in a subsequent action involving a different claim, here a claim for unemployment insurance benefits.

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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