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September 07, 2017

Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board may reject an application for unemployment insurance benefits based on its finding the Claimant's employment was terminated due to disqualifying misconduct



Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board may reject an application for unemployment insurance benefits based on its finding the Claimant's employment was terminated due to disqualifying misconduct
2017 NY Slip Op 02109, Appellate Division, Third Department

A Claimant for unemployment insurance benefits appealed a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board that found that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits because her employment was terminated due to her misconduct.

Claimant had been found guilty of disciplinary charges filed against her pursuant to §3020-a of the Education Law. The charges alleged that  she had engaged in misconduct, conduct "unbecoming and/or prejudicial," insubordination and violating the employer's rules.

The Department of Education's §3020-a hearing officer found Claimant guilty of the charges and specification filed against and based on the Hearing Officer's findings, Claimant's employment was terminated by her employer.

Claimant then appealed the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board's decision, challenging the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board's Hearing Officer's factual and credibility determinations. Essentially Claimant contended that there evidentiary errors were made at the disciplinary hearing.

The Appellate Division, noting that it did not appear that Claimant appealed the §3020-a hearing officer's disciplinary determination, said that her challenges concerning the merits of the disciplinary hearing officer's determination may not be raised in this unemployment insurance proceeding. The court said that the record indicated that Claimant was represented by an attorney at the §3020-a disciplinary hearing and her  attorney "had the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses and to cross-examine the employer's witnesses" in that forum. In addition, Claimant testified at length with regard to the charges and specifications filed against her.

In view of the fact that Claimant had "a full and fair opportunity to litigate the charges of misconduct at that hearing," the Appellate Division said that the Board "properly gave collateral estoppel* effect to the [§3020-a] Hearing Officer's factual determinations." In addition, having taken into account the factual findings concerning Claimant's misconduct, the court said that the Board "was entitled to make its own independent conclusions as to whether [Claimant's] behavior constituted disqualifying misconduct for the purposes of [determining her eligibility for] unemployment insurance benefits."

Finding that the Board's decision to give "collateral estoppel effect" to the factual findings in the disciplinary hearing was not affected by an error in law and its finding that Claimant had committed disqualifying misconduct was supported by substantial evidence, the Appellate Division ruled that it determination would not be disturbed.

* The Doctrine of Collateral Estoppel stands for the proposition that a decision between parties is conclusive as to the issues or controverted points adjudicated by a tribunal having jurisdiction and may not be relitigated by the same parties in a subsequent proceeding involving the same issue or issues in a different forum.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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