Employee dismissed for alleged sexual harassment disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits
Matter of Ferro, 283 AD2d 828
The Ferro decision demonstrates that engaging in sexual harassment will disqualify an employee for unemployment insurance benefits if he or she is terminated as a result of such misconduct.
Albert J. Ferro was dismissed from his position for allegedly violating his employer's policy prohibiting sexual harassment. According to the decision, a witness testified that he had observed Ferro, a management trainee, grab a female employee from behind and then acted in a sexual manner. This resulted in Ferro being fired from his position.
Ferro's application for unemployment insurance benefits was rejected. The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ruled that Ferro was ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits because his employment was terminated due to his misconduct. The Appellate Division, Third Department, sustained the Board's determination. The court pointed out that “offensive behavior in the workplace can constitute disqualifying misconduct ... as can conduct that is detrimental to the employer's interest.”
The rationale underlying the ruling: employers may be held “vicariously liable” as the result of the sexual harassment of subordinates by its management employees. Accordingly, such misconduct “is detrimental to the employer's interests.”