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For unemployment, there’s stupid, then there’s willful

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in Compensation and Benefits,Firing,Human Resources

Employees are typically ineligible for unemployment benefits if they were fired for creating a hostile work environment. That usually amounts to willful misconduct, which disqualifies them from collecting unemployment.

But not every crude or stupid action is serious enough to bar benefits, as this case shows.

Recent case: Neil managed 600 warehouse employees. When someone, despite clear instructions, tried to use a battery in a way that could have caused serious injury, Neil posted a sign instructing employees to leave the batteries alone. The sign was addressed “To the moron” who had made the mistake.

Neil was fired for willful misconduct and was denied unemployment benefits. He appealed—and won. The court concluded that the use of “moron” in this context wasn’t willful misconduct. (Brown v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 1618 C.D. 2011, Commonwealth Court, 2012)

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