Termination for violating workplace rules defeats a claim for unemployment insurance benefits

Termination for violating workplace rules defeats a claim for unemployment insurance benefits
Smith v Commissioner of Labor, 296 A.D.2d 803

Violating the employer's policy or work rules concerning sexual harassment may not only result in the termination of the employee. It may also disqualify the individual for unemployment insurance benefits.

The Appellate Division, Third Department, said that it is clear that an employee who is terminated because he or she "knowing" violated his or her employer's established policy or workplace rules may have been dismissed for "disqualifying misconduct" for the purposes of his or her eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits is concerned. In the Smith case, the Appellate Division, citing the Campbell decision, 271 AD2d 787, demonstrated this principle in a case involving an employee's termination for violating the employer's policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

An employee was dismissed from his position for violating his employer's policy prohibiting its employees from "sending inappropriate communications by e-mail." When his application for unemployment insurance benefits was rejected by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, The applicant sued.

According to the evidence introduced in the course of an unemployment insurance administrative hearing, the individual had sent "questionable e-mail" to his co-employees to notify them of a meeting with the e-mail's subject line reading "NUDE PICTURES - NUDE PICTURES". The applicant's explanation for this: he had used the phrase as a means of gaining the attention of his readers.

About a year later the employee was terminated following his sending an e-mail to his co-employees the employer determined had again violated its policy of transmitting "inappropriate communications by e-mail."

The Appellate Division sustained the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board's decision that the employee had lost his employment under disqualifying circumstances -- i.e., he lost his employment due to his misconduct in violating the employer's workplace rules..

The court said that there was substantial evidence in the record to sustain the Board's determination and any issue concerning the credibility of the testimony of witness was for the Board to resolve.