Court Examines Misunderstanding that Allowed for Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are granted in Louisiana with the assumption that the employee did not perform any misconduct within the course of employment. Misconduct is defined as either an intentional offense or an accidental offense that the employee should have been able to avoid if they had paid more attention or been more careful. Misconduct could also include an intentional and substantial disregard for the interests of the employer. For example, making extremely risky investments that are very likely to loose money would be considered disregard for the interests of the employer. If any of these types of misconduct are found, then the employee is disqualified from being able to receive unemployment.

Recently, the Forty-Second Judicial District Court for the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana gave a good example of what the court would classify as misconduct. The District Court found for the employee in this case, so the employer appealed to the Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in Louisiana.

The employee in this case was hired to be an assistant to the bookkeeper in an oil company. Her title was “office administrator.” Among other duties, she double checked the payroll figures for the bookkeeper and provided an orientation program for new hires. She had been working for the company for seven months when she requested an unpaid vacation.

Company policy was to disallow paid vacations until an employee had been there for an entire year. However, the company occasionally allowed paid vacations in violation of that rule as they saw fit. When the employee asked to have unpaid vacation, her supervisor gave her the impression that she could have paid vacation as a reward for the extra hours that she had been working recently.

When it came time to pay her for those vacation hours, she approved them in her review of the payroll figures under the impression that she was to be paid for her vacation. Her supervisor reviewed the figures and approved them hastily and did not notice the paid vacation. When the company realized that she had been paid for her vacation weeks later, the employee was terminated without much discussion.

The employee then filed for unemployment insurance benefits. The Office of Regulatory Services is a division of the Louisiana Department of labor and handles the unemployment insurance program for the state. Unemployment insurance allows employees to have benefit payments should they become unemployed when they are not at fault.

The Office of Regulatory Services denied the unemployment benefits even though their fact-finding process determined that the mistake was unintentional and based on a misunderstanding between the supervisor and the employee. Based on this conclusion, the employee would not be at fault for the loss of her employment. The court found that the Office of Regulatory Service’s fact finding, which determined that the employee’s payment of extra funds was unintentional, did not correlate with the denial of benefits, so it was reversed.

The court determined that although the employee made a mistake, she was acting on the mistaken assumption that her vacation had been paid because of a conversation with her superior. She did not knowingly pay herself benefits without reason. The employee was aware that she could not have paid vacation until she worked there an entire year and originally asked for unpaid vacation when she approached her supervisor. Therefore, the employee was allowed to receive unemployment benefits.

Employees deserve to have payments through unemployment insurance benefits if they are terminated through no fault of their own. In this case, an employee was terminated based on a misunderstanding that could not be blamed on one individual. If you are denied unemployment benefits for a similar reason, then the help of seasoned attorneys is vital to allow you to receive the payments you deserve.

Call the Berniard Law Firm Toll Free at 1-866-574-8005 and we will be happy to speak with you about your unemployment benefits.