Absences from work make it harder for employees to keep their jobs and if they do lose them the absences can adversely affect an employee’s ability to get unemployment compensation.
In four recent unpublished Minnesota Court of Appeals cases, the court has upheld lower court decisions finding that the employee had committed “misconduct” disqualifying him or her from unemployment compensation benefits.
In Jusczak v. Lampert Yards, Inc., 2013 WL 5418103, Nos. A13-0238, A13-0258 (Minn. App. Sept. 30, 2013) two brothers, Jarrett and Jadrien Juszak worked at the Lampert Yards lumber yard in Moose Lake. In August 2012, Jadrien had an altercation with his supervisor. Jarrett joined the argument and defended his brother. Jadrien and the supervisor’s argument escalated into a minor physical altercation and the two brothers were told to take a lunch break. The supervisor stated that if they did not come back after lunch they would no longer have a job. Both brothers failed to return to work that day. When they returned to work the following day, their jobs were terminated. In upholding the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s determination that both men were ineligible for unemployment benefits because they had been discharged for employment misconduct. The Court held,
As a general rule, refusing to abide by an employer’s reasonable policies and requests amounts to disqualifying misconduct. An employer has the right to establish and enforce reasonable rules governing absences from work. Even a single incident can be misconduct if it represents a sufficient enough disregard for the employer’s expectations. And “except in certain limited circumstances, an employee engages in misconduct if he is absent even once without notifying his employer.” The ULJ found that Johnson’s directive that the brothers return to work after their lunch break was reasonable and that the brothers’ eligibility turns on whether they had a good reason for not complying with that directive. The definition of employment misconduct excludes “conduct an average reasonable employee would have engaged in under the circumstances.” Having a good reason for not returning would bring the brothers’ afternoon absence within that exclusion.
Id. at *2 (internal citations omitted).
In Karasek v. Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co., 2013 WL 5418043, No. A13-0146 (Minn. App. Sept. 30, 2013), the employee Daniel Karasek was employed by 3M as a full-time engineer from November 2010 to November 2011. Both of the parties agreed that for at least one month during his employment, Karasek worked significantly fewer than 40 hours per week and did not report his absences. Karasek claimed that failing to report his absences did not qualify as employee misconduct, and 3M stated that it did. 3M’s procedure to log absences required all employees to report time off in a time-keeping system. After an investigation was done, 3M found out that Karasek was gone for four full days in a two-week period, and during a one month period he was only onsite for a total of 78 hours. The time-keeping system noted that Karasek had not reported any of his absences. Karasek claimed that at certain times he worked from home. However, he never reported this to his supervisor. Similar to Jusczak, the court in Karasek found that it was not unreasonable that 3M expected its employees to report absences from work and request permission to work from home. Since it was undisputed that Karasek failed to log some of his absences and he deviated from the expected work schedule, it was enough evidence to support the lower court’s finding that Karasek had committed employee misconduct, thus disqualifying him from unemployment compensation benefits.
In Kruegel v. All-American Co-Op, 2013 WL 5418162, No. A13-0331 (Minn. App. Sept. 30, 2013), Kruegel worked for All-American Co-Op for about six months until All-American terminated his employment as a grain laborer. Kruegel was denied unemployment benefits because All-American had terminated his job due to work absence caused by his incarceration. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision that Kruegel wasn’t eligible for unemployment benefits based on one day’s absence from work due to his incarceration and anticipated indefinite future absences due to incarceration. The court cited the rule that generally a single absence without permission from the employer may amount to misconduct, and “absence from work due to incarceration is not misconduct that will disqualify an employee on a per se basis from establishing eligibility for the receipt of unemployment compensation,” but “committing a crime that results in a period of incarceration may be evidence that an employee lacked concern for her employment.”
Finally, in Coleman v. County of Hennepin, 2013 WL 5508368, No. A13-0017 (Minn. App. Oct 7, 2013), Anthony Coleman, a food service worker, received permission from his supervisor at the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility to leave work early after he had told his supervisor that his mother was ill. Coleman then missed four days of work, and his supervisor learned that Coleman’s actual reason for leaving early was to avoid police who were seeking his arrest for a charge of rape. Coleman was subsequently discharged. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision that Coleman’s dishonest representation of his mother’s illness to support a request to leave work was considered misconduct.