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Ignored work rules? No unemployment benefits

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Employers are entitled to impose reasonable rules in their workplaces. Workers who refuse to abide by those rules aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if they are terminated.

Recent case: Julie worked for a small company that needed to be fully staffed on all shifts. The company had strict rules for scheduling medical appointments during the workday in order to keep all shifts running smoothly. The company requested two weeks’ notice, but required a minimum of three days’ notice. For emergencies, the employer required notification on the morning of the appointment or as soon as possible.

Julie had several medical conditions that contributed to frequent absences and medical appointments, including migraines, neck pain, depression and anxiety. She frequently announced she had a doctor’s appointment while working a shift. She was warned repeatedly that she was not following the rules.

Finally, the employer fired her after she texted one morning that she would not be in until noon because of a medical appointment.

Julie applied for unemployment compensation. The court rejected the bid, reasoning that, absent some emergency or evidence of a mental impairment that prohibited her from following the rules, Julie had been fired for misconduct and therefore wasn’t eligible for unemployment benefits. (Schwantes v. Northwest Packaging, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2017)

Final note: Make sure you are complying with the ADA and the FMLA if the worker is eligible for intermittent leave for a disability and if you have enough employees to be covered by those laws.

This company’s rules appear compliant. It asked for just two weeks’ notice for medical appointments, while the FMLA lets employers demand up to 30 days’ notice. The rules also allowed exceptions for emergencies, so someone eligible for FMLA intermittent leave would be able to call off the morning of scheduled work.

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