Unemployment insurance claim filed by terminated employee may be denied on the basis of the findings of a disciplinary arbitrator under the doctrine of “collateral estoppel”
2014 NY Slip Op 04546, Appellate Division, Third Department
An employee [Claimant] challenged his termination from his position in accordance with the disciplinary grievance procedure set out in the relevant collective bargaining agreement. After a full evidentiary arbitration hearing, at which Claimant was represented by counsel, the arbitrator determined that Claimant was guilty of the charges filed against him and that there was “just cause” for his dismissal from his position.
Claimant then applied for unemployment insurance benefits. The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, adopting the arbitrator's findings of fact and denied Claimant's application for unemployment insurance benefits. The Board ruled that Claimant had lost his employment due to disqualifying misconduct within the meaning of the Unemployment Insurance Law.
Contending that the Board erred in giving “collateral estoppel effect" to the arbitrator's factual findings and that the Board's decision was not supported by substantial evidence, Claimant appealed the Board’s determination.
The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s ruling explaining that where the record establishes that there was “a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of the conduct precipitating termination in an arbitration proceeding, the arbitrator's factual findings must be accorded collateral estoppel effect."
Here, said the court, a review of the record confirms that the Board properly took into account the arbitrator's factual findings regarding Claimant's conduct underlying the disciplinary charges filed against him and made an independent evaluation as to whether Claimant's behavior constituted “disqualifying misconduct” for the purposes of unemployment insurance.
Noting that the arbitrator had found Claimant guilty of fighting with a coworker – behavior that has been held to constitute “disqualifying misconduct” -- the Appellate Division said that substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that Claimant was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits under the circumstances and affirmed the Board’s decision..