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)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Firing reasons: Make sure all statements are consistent
- Reassignment to new position might be retaliation
- Head off problem employees' retaliation suits: Document all decision-making as it happens
- More than one reason to terminate? Be sure to carefully document your rationale