Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board entitled to determine reasons for dismissing an employee constituted disqualifying misconduct for purposes of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits
Matter of Telemaque (Commissioner of Labor), 2017 NY Slip Op 02109, Appellate Division, Third Department
Veronica Telemaque, an absent reserve teacher for 20 years, was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a for allegedly engaging in misconduct, conduct unbecoming and, or, insubordination and violating the employer's rules. Based upon the Hearing Officer's findings and recommendation, Telemaque was found guilty of the charges and was terminated from her position.
Telemaque then applied for unemployment insurance benefits but her application for such benefits was rejected by the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board on the ground that she had lost her employment due to her misconduct. Telemaque appealed the Board's determination to the Appellate Division but the court sustained the Board's ruling,
Indicating that "It does not appear that [Telemaque] appealed that disciplinary determination," the Appellate Division ruled that Telemaque's challenges to the merits of the disciplinary determination resulting in her termination may not be raised in her unemployment insurance proceeding.
Further, said the court, the record indicated that Telemaque was  represented by an attorney at the disciplinary hearing who had the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses and to cross-examine the employer's witnesses, and  Telemaque had "testified at length" with regard to the charges filed against her at the disciplinary hearing.
The Appellate Division explained that as Telemaque "had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the charges of misconduct at [the disciplinary] hearing," the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board "properly gave collateral estoppel effect to the Hearing Officer's factual determinations."
Further, said the court, "having properly taken into account those factual findings with regard to [Telemaque's] misconduct, the Board was entitled to make its own independent conclusions as to whether her behavior constituted disqualifying misconduct for purposes of unemployment insurance benefits."
As actions detrimental to an employer's interests and violating the employer's known policies and threatening behavior have been recognized as disqualifying misconduct, the Appellate Division held that the Board's decision to give collateral estoppel effect to the factual findings in the disciplinary determination was not affected by an error of law and its determination that Telemaque had committed disqualifying misconduct was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, said the court, the Board's determination "will not be disturbed."
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