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May 18, 2016

Unemployment insurance benefit denied where off-duty misconduct found to breach the standards of behavior expected of an employee in consideration of his or her duties


Unemployment insurance benefit denied where off-duty misconduct found to breach the standards of behavior expected of an employee in consideration of his or her duties
Hall (Commissioner of Labor), 2016 NY Slip Op 03797, Appellate Division, Third Department

An employee of the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities [OPDD], Richard Hall, was arrested at his home for possession of marijuana. When OPDD learned of Hall’s arrest, it placed him on indefinite suspension. While on suspension, Hall applied for unemployment insurance benefits but was disqualified from receiving them based on a finding that he had engaged in disqualifying misconduct.

While on suspension from his position with OPDD, Hall pleaded guilty to criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree and, in settlement of the administrative disciplinary charges then pending against him, OPDD reinstated Hall to his position after he had been out of work for 15 months.

With respect to Hall's claim for unemployment insurance benefits, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] ruled, among other things, that Hall’s plea of guilty to the criminal charge amounted to misconduct disqualifying him from receiving benefits. The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board sustained the ALJ's decision and Hall appealed the Board’s determination.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s ruling.

Citing Matter of Sinker [Sweeney], 89 NY2d 485, the court explained that criminal convictions arising from conduct occurring outside the workplace have been found to constitute disqualifying misconduct where the conduct demonstrates a breach "of the standards of behavior to be reasonably expected by an employer in light of the nature of the employment involved."

Here, said the court, Hall’s job duties included dispensing medications to developmentally disabled individuals. Given the environment in which Hall worked, the Appellate Division said that it was reasonable for OPDD to expect that Hall would not illegally use or possess controlled substances. Clearly, said the court, Hall's criminal conduct posed a risk to his employer's mission and was detrimental to its interests.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division found that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that Hall had engaged in disqualifying misconduct.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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