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March 28, 2011

Applicant denied unemployment insurance benefits after being terminated for sexual harassment after a disciplinary hearing

Applicant denied unemployment insurance benefits after being terminated for sexual harassment after a disciplinary hearing
Matter of Nwaozor v City of New York, 2011 NY Slip Op 02098, Appellate Division, Third Department

Pius C. Nwaozor, a supervisor for the Department of Homeless Services, was served with disciplinary charges alleging sexual harassment involving a client of the agency. Although the arbitrator determined that Nwaozor was guilty of certain charges and that suspension without pay should be imposed as the penalty, the appointing authority dismissed him from his position.

When his application for unemployment insurance benefits was ultimately rejected by the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, Nwaozor appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s determination.

Nwaozor had argued that the Board was bound by the arbitrator’s determination that although he was found guilty of sexual harassment, his termination “was unwarranted.”

The Appellate Division disagreed, pointing out that the Board is required to give the arbitrator’s determination collateral estoppel effect. It is then “incumbent upon the Board to make an independent evaluation” as to whether Nwapzpr’s constituted ‘misconduct’ for the purposes of unemployment insurance.

The arbitrator found that Nwaozor had sexually harassed a client, which behavior is detrimental to his employer's interest. Accordingly, said the court, the Board's decision disqualifying Nwaozor from receiving benefits due to misconduct was rationally based.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_02098.htm

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