In most states, employees terminated for misconduct aren’t entitled to unemployment compensation. However, what rises to the level of misconduct requires an individualized assessment.
As this case shows, 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: Auto repair technician Enrique Godoy didn’t show up at work for several days during his wife’s pregnancy, so he was terminated. He applied for unemployment compensation, but the company opposed the benefits, arguing that not showing up for work is “misconduct.”
The appeals court 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, 2010)
Final note: Some cases are not 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. Just be sure to document why, so others can’t challenge their own discharge for poor attendance by pointing to leniency in another employee’s case.