Employees fired for willful misconduct aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation. But what is willful misconduct? The term is broad and can include all kinds of behavior, such as refusing to cooperate with an employer’s reasonable request for information.
Recent case: Richard worked as a nurse. When his mother became ill, he often took time off to care for her. Those absences were likely covered by the.
However, as his mother’s illness wore on, Richard stopped communicating directly with his employer’s HR office and instead sent faxes. When calls to his home and his wife’s phone were not returned, he was told to call HR.
He didn’t, so he was fired. Richard applied for unemployment compensation, but was turned down because his former employer said he was terminated for willful misconduct.
Richard appealed, arguing that not communicating with his employer in the exact way the employer wished (via a direct phone call to HR) was not willful misconduct. The court disagreed and ruled him ineligible. (Dominick v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 11-CD-2014, Commonwealth Court, 2015)
Final note: Employees are expected to follow reasonable rules. They can’t simply choose their own way to communicate—or anything else.
The employer did everything right in this case. It made several efforts to gather the information it needed to approve or disapprove Richard’s FMLA request and told him clearly what it expected. He refused to cooperate and was discharged for willful misconduct.