Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Terminated employee’s actions that did not constitute misconduct but was an error of judgment does not disqualify the individual for unemployment insurance benefits


Terminated employee’s actions that did not constitute misconduct but was an error of judgment does not disqualify the individual for unemployment insurance benefits
Jackson (County of Nassau Civ. Serv. Commn.--Commissioner of Labor), 2012 NY Slip Op 05372, Appellate Division, Third Department

A correction officer at the Nassau County Correctional Facility began a “personal relationship with a man who was later incarcerated at that facility.” She continued to have a personal relationship with this individual following his incarceration and communicated with him on her cell phone in contravention of the facility’s policy prohibiting corrections personnel from fraternizing with inmates.

Ultimately the correction officer was terminated from her position and she was later disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits on the ground that her employment was terminated due to misconduct.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, however, reversed this decision and ruled that correction officer was entitled to receive benefits because her activities did not constitute misconduct, but rather an error of judgment.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board’s ruling.

Rejecting the facility’s appeal, the court explained that the question of whether an applicant for unemployment insurance benefits had engaged in disqualifying misconduct is a factual issue for the Board to resolve and “its determination will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence.”

Notably, said the court, "not every mistake, exercise of poor judgment or discharge for cause will rise to the level of misconduct." Although the correction officer’s making the phone calls violated the employer's policy prohibiting corrections personnel from having personal conversations with inmates, she had testified that she was unaware of this policy.

The court, “based upon the limited record” before it, concluded that substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that correction officer's actions, “albeit inappropriate, did not rise to the level of misconduct disqualifying her from receiving unemployment insurance benefits.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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