Articles Posted in Wrongful Termination

Published on:

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

For a claimant to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, the claimant, among other things, must have lost their job through no fault of their own. This generally means if the claimant was terminated, it must not have been for misconduct. Usually, whether the reason for termination rises to misconduct is simple: stealing, harassment, or fighting is misconduct while forgetfulness, occasional lateness, or being unable to do the job is not. The following two cases are examples of uncertainty; uncertainty in whether the behavior amounts to misconduct and uncertainty as to what actually happened.

In the first case, claimant Shawn Roy appealed his disqualification from receiving unemployment insurance benefits on the grounds that there was no misconduct. The Appellate Division found substantial evidence that supported the Unemployment Insurance Board’s determination that Mr. Roy was discharged as a food service worker due to disqualifying conduct, specifically, he created “violent and sexually explicit videos using LEGO characters, including characters depicting the executive director of the nursing home, claimant’s department head and two female coworkers, and posted the videos online.” The Board was convinced that Mr. Roy was obligated “even during his off-duty hours, to honor the standards of behavior which his employer has a right to expect of him… ” As such, the Board decided that the videos constituted misconduct and, as a result, he was disqualified for collecting unemployment insurance benefits. This case is a lesson in that at least in some circumstances, legal conduct outside of work can constitute misconduct.

Published on:

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On September 18, 2015, in Ray v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Utah Supreme Court found in favor of five former Wal-Mart employees, holding that Wal-Mart wrongfully terminated their employment. The five employees brought this lawsuit after two separate incidents in 2011. In the first incident, employees Derek Holt and Eric Hunter, grabbed a suspected shoplifter after the suspect pulled out a knife, resulting in Mr. Holt and Mr. Hunter using force to disarm him. Following the incident, Wal-Mart terminated Mr. Holt’s and Mr. Hunter’s employment for violating company policy, which prohibits the use of force that may put at risk fellow workers or shoppers. In the second incident, Wal-Mart employees Shawn Ray, Lori Poulsen and Gabriel Stewart detained a customer suspected of stealing. When they confronted the suspect, Ms. Poulsen saw a gun in the suspect’s pocket, and a physical altercation ensued. The three employees pinned the suspect down and retrieved the gun. Wal-Mart immediately terminated these employees for violating the same policy.

Wal-Mart’s policy states: “If [a] suspect is believed to possess a weapon, the suspect must not be approached. If during an approach or investigation it becomes apparent that the suspect has a weapon or brandishes or threatens use of a weapon, all associates must disengage from the situation, withdraw to a safe position, and contact law enforcement.” The former Wal-Mart employees claimed that this policy violated Utah’s public policy.

Contact Information