Unemployment Compensation Don’t Disqualify Yourself

Don’t Disqualify Yourself

Unemployment compensation can provide benefits during a difficult time. However, if an employee commits willful misconduct, benefits will be denied. In a recent appeals court case, an employee should have consulted an attorney to inform her whether the facts of her case supported willful misconduct and how to prepare for the hearing. Instead, she represented herself and pursued a claim which resulted in an unfavorable, and potentially embarrassing, decision for her.

Ms. Walker lost her case even though the employer did not attend the hearing. An employer must prove willful misconduct and usually when it does not attend the hearing, it is difficult for an employer to prove its case because there is no employer witness testimony and the information in the file is hearsay which can be objected to.

Ms. Walker did not object to the hearsay information and her own testimony proved the employer’s case. An attorney could have made the proper objections which would have eliminated all of the employer’s evidence. An attorney could have prepared and structured her testimony to provide basic information and at least give her more of a chance of success. So, what were the facts that lead to an unfavorable decision?

Ms. Walker worked as a food service work manager and one of her duties required her to travel in order to submit invoices and forms to a supervisor. After delivering forms to a supervisor in the morning and while on company time, she visited a car rental agency to return a rental car and pick up her personal car. This visit caused her to run late, but she failed to call her employer to inform it that she was running late. She decided not to return to work that day. However, she called a co-worker who used her social security number to clock her out at the end of the day.

Ms. Walker returned to work the next day and a week later the employer terminated her for theft of time and falsification of records. Surveillance cameras captured the co-worker using her number to clock her out.

Ms. Walker was denied benefits due to willful misconduct. She claimed “it was [an] accident that somebody clock[ed] me out” and she did not call her supervisor because she heard he was leaving work early. She admitted to being on company time while retrieving her personal car from the rental company but she could not produce the rental agreement. The referee thought her story was too coincidental that someone had her social security number and clocked her out, and that she didn’t call someone else at her employer.

The appeals court affirmed the denial of benefits. As the appeals court noted, Ms. Walker never explained why she used company time to handle personal errands from 9:30 A.M. until the end of the work day while on company time and being paid her wages. The courts have held that “receiving pay for hours not worked or using work time to attend to personal affairs without authorization can constitute willful misconduct”.

Perhaps, this case could not have been won at a hearing due to the facts. However, an attorney could have advised her of the weakness of her case and potentially not to pursue a hearing and an appeal. Now, there is a reported, public opinion detailing her willful misconduct.

Walker v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, (Pa.Cmwlth. 2019).

Hoffmeyer & Semmelman LLC is a law office in York PA. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to review your legal documents.

Written by: Robert L Buzzendore, Esquire

As Reviewed by: William F. Hoffmeyer, Esquire

© Copyright by Hoffmeyer & Semmelman LLC, April 2019

Social Media Impacts Every Legal Area

Social Media and the Law

What you post on social media can make a huge difference in your cases, both personally and privately.

Facebook has over 1.86 billion monthly active users. By 2018, 169.2 million of those users will be from the United States. LinkedIn has 467 million users, 128 million from the United States. This includes representatives of all Fortune 500 companies. Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18-34 American users and YouTube serves up over 4 billion views of videos, every single day. The numbers are extraordinary and the type of data people share can have a substantial impact on their lives, including their interactions with the legal system. There is no area of law not impacted by social media use. Three areas where we frequently see social media use implications for our clients are: Family, employment, and business.

Family Law

Practically from day one, social media began to have an impact on family law cases, especially divorce, support, and custody. While people may “unfriend” their soon to be ex-spouses, they often do not unfriend mutual friends. In addition, children who are at least 13 years of age are often on Facebook and other sites. They, of course, will be friends with both parents. Courts frequently admit evidence involving conduct which is contrary to the claims of the parties. Images of parents drinking and/or partying can have an impact on child custody, especially if the children are in the pictures. Discussions about money can greatly impact alimony and support. Posts that may not be relevant to the case but anger ex-spouses can lead to problems with negotiations. Judges are swayed by social media content. It is important to know what areas to avoid when you are in the middle of a family law case.

Employment Law

It is easy to understand why an employer might terminate an employee who writes something negative about their company on social media. However, while it is often permissible to do so, there are times when firing an employer based on a post will violate the law and leave a company open to an expensive claim. It is important to avoid a knee jerk reaction and to consult with a lawyer about whether the content is protected, prior to making a termination decision. In addition, if one employee engages in inappropriate behavior towards another online, you may have an obligation to act. Having an appropriate social media policy can go a long way to spelling out what employees may and may not post related to your business. These social media policies must be written correctly. Over the years, many policies have been thrown out for being overbroad. If you don’t have a policy it may be time to get one. If you do, be certain to review it to make certain it is acceptable under current law.

Business Law

Different businesses have different privacy requirements and laws they must follow. Medical staff posting images of patients or identifiable information leave medical facilities open to HIPAA fines and privacy lawsuits. Publicly held companies can have problems if they share inappropriate content deemed to be seeking to impact stock prices. Failing to respond to angry customers may not lead to legal problems, but they can certainly lead to public relations disasters. Knowing what your business may and may not post, along with having an appropriate social media policy, is a critical part of protecting your business from both legal and PR nightmares.

Conclusion

The key thing to remember is that social media can impact both your private and business life. Making certain that you understand what you should and should not post online is key for protecting yourself and your business. If you have questions about how social media can impact you or your business in York PA or surrounding areas, contact Hoffmeyer & Semmelman to learn more. We have law offices in York, Mt. Wolf, and Shrewsbury to better serve you.