Employees who are terminated for misconduct aren’t entitled to unemployment compensation. However, what rises to the level of misconduct requires an individualized assessment.
In fact, using poor judgment alone isn’t misconduct. Employees who make a mistake are eligible for benefits, and the mistake doesn’t have to be a work mistake.
Recent case: Enrique Godoy worked as an automotive repairs technician for several years. When he did not show up for several days during his wife’s pregnancy, he was terminated. He applied for unemployment compensation, but his former employer, Autotronic Auto Service, opposed the benefits. Autotronic argued that not showing up for work is misconduct.
The Court of Appeal of Florida disagreed. It said that Godoy’s absence in response to an apparent family obligation wasn’t misconduct, but was better characterized as an isolated instance of poor judgment. (Godoy v. Florida Unemployment Appeals Commission, No. 3D09-196, Court of Appeal of Florida, 3rd District, 2010)
Final note: Some cases may not be worth pursuing. That’s especially true of unemployment compensation cases such as this one. While you may feel strongly about not paying benefits for someone who clearly broke company rules or who had a persistent attendance or disciplinary history, that wasn’t the case here. In fact, it might have made sense to forgive this absence altogether, given the circumstances. Just be sure to document why so that others can’t challenge their own discharge for poor attendance by pointing to leniency in this case.