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Winning unemployment case doesn’t let you off the hook for wrongful discharge

by on
in Firing,Human Resources

Many employers carefully prepare for unemployment compensation hearings, especially if the employee was fired for misconduct.

Then, having proven that the employee was fired for some wrongful act, they naively conclude that the same employee can’t turn around and sue them for wrongful discharge.

The fact is, employees can do just that in many cases.

Recent case:
Joel Gonzalez worked for American Airlines until he was fired for supposedly not turning over cash he collected when a passenger made a ticketing change at the boarding gate counter. Gonzalez took the customer’s $80, gave him $5 change out of his own pocket and put the money he had collected in a drawer at the gate. He apparently left it there for some time.

Later, when the airline tried to charge the customer again, the customer complained.

Gonzalez told his supervisors about the money in the drawer. He was fired, and the hearing officer considering Gonzalez’s unemployment claim said he had been fired for misconduct.

Gonzalez sued, alleging wrongful discharge. The airline tried to use the unemployment comp decision to get the case tossed out.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument. It said Gonzalez would have a chance to show that he had been wrongfully discharged even though he had been found to be fired for misconduct in the unemployment compensation case. (Gonzalez v. American Airlines, No. 06-5161, 3rd Cir., 2008)

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