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When the writing is on the wall: Court finds employee justified in believing she was fired

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in Admins,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Office Management

It’s not surprising that employees and employers can view the same circumstances differently. Consider, for example, the following case, in which an employee thought she had been replaced and promptly left. She was entitled to unemployment compensation based on her reasonable belief that she had been fired even though her employer never told her so.

Recent case: Eileen Dahling worked as an office manager in a dental office when she had to take FMLA leave to care for her ailing husband. She told the dentist she worked for that she could work from home, and he agreed. For several weeks, she was paid for the hours she said she worked.

Then she opened the newspaper and saw a classified ad for a position she assumed was hers. Several weeks later, while still being paid for the work she did from home, she stopped by the dental office and found someone sitting at her desk and her personal items boxed up. She exclaimed, “I’m out of here,” left and applied for unemployment compensation.

Dahling got the benefits, but was then ordered to pay them back when the dental practice protested. It claimed it never fired her.

She appealed, and the New Jersey Superior Court reversed the order to pay back the benefits, ruling that it was reasonable for Dahling to assume she had been terminated. (Dahling v. Board of Review, Department of Labor, et al., No. A-4379-07T2, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2009)

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