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Weigh employee’s good-faith intentions before contesting unemployment benefits

by on
in Compensation and Benefits,Firing,Human Resources

Employees don’t qualify for un­­employment benefits if they’re fired for misconduct. After all, it’s their own fault they were fired. Mis­­conduct generally includes actions that violate a so-called “reasonable employer” rule.

However, employees who violate an employer’s reasonable rule because of a good-faith error in judgment can still collect benefits.

Recent case: Jose worked for a company that collected restaurants’ cooking grease for recycling and disposal. He received a $150-per-year allowance to purchase safety shoes from a particular store.

He already had good shoes, but a friend needed a new pair. They went to the store, where Jose asked the clerk to measure his friend’s feet. Jose wanted to buy the shoes and then give them to his friend. The store refused, saying that wasn’t allowed.

Jose was fired after the company decided he committed misconduct by trying to spend his shoe allowance on someone else. It contested his bid for unemployment benefits.

The court said Jose was eligible for benefits. It decided that although Jose knew the allowance was provided so employees could buy their own shoes for work, he was not culpable because he didn’t intend to do anything wrong. At the shoe store, he never tried to hide his intentions, and he didn’t wind up using the allowance for his friend. At most he was guilty of a good-faith error in judgment. (Robles v. EDD, No. A 132773, Court of Appeal of California, 2012)

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