You can get unemployment benefits in Iowa if you were fired, as long as you weren’t fired for misconduct.  So what’s misconduct?

Martin W. Bormann v. Universal Tank and Fabrication was decided March 3rd by Administrative Law Judge James E. Timberland.  Mr. Bormann, the claimant, was a welder, and Universal Tank had a policy of having its employees sign “reprimands” when it determined they had messed up a job.  Basically, if an employee signed a reprimand, it meant he agreed with the employer’s version of the facts, and took responsibility for the mistakes.  Once an employee had signed a reprimand, it would stay on his employment record and potentially affect whatever bonuses he might be due in the future.

On August 26, 2013, Mr. Bormann refused to sign a reprimand.  He had contributed to the defective work in question but didn’t agree with the employer’s version of the facts.  Over the next few days, his bosses tried to get him to sign it, but Mr. Bormann continued to refuse.  Mr. Bormann was fired, not because of the defective work, but because he wouldn’t sign the reprimand.  Apparently, Universal Tank viewed his actions as insubordination.

The judge decided otherwise.  Yes, employees are normally expected to follow disciplinary procedures.  But the employer’s expectations—that Mr. Bormann take responsibility for facts he disagreed with—were unreasonable.  On top of that, the employer didn’t give him any other option.  Mr. Bormann was not fired for misconduct—he lost his job for good cause attributable to his employer. 

This decision is a good sign if you lost your job for an unfair reason and are now seeking unemployment benefits.  Did your employer pressure you into doing something that didn’t feel right, with your only other option being to lose your job?  You can learn from Mr. Bormann’s case. 

It can be tough to navigate all the rules alone, and you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer to help you out.  I like to say to my clients, "Help me to help you."  If we can help you call the Lombardi Law Firm to speak with attorneys Steve Lombardi and Katrina Schaefer. We can be reached at 515-222-1110 or by emailing us at [email protected] and [email protected] We look forward to your call.

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