If you want to get Iowa unemployment benefits, you have to have lost your job through no fault of your own that amounts to misconduct.  That means that if you were fired, you can only get benefits if you were fired for some reason other than your own misconduct that reaches a trigger level where it appears you should have known better.  For this reason, Iowa administrative law judges wrangles with the meaning of “misconduct” all the time. 

According to Iowa regulations,

“Misconduct […is] limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest as is found in deliberate violation or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of employees, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree of recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer. On the other hand mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies or ordinary negligence in isolated instances, or good faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed misconduct[.]”

A receptionist--let's call her Jill-- was fired from her job at a veterinary clinic on February 10thfor repeated carelessness in performing her work.”  Here are the alleged instances of carelessness that led to her being fired:

  • She gave medical advice to a client over the phone after being told not to do so.
  • She told a customer she did not care for a particular breeder from whom the customer had purchased a pet.
  • She improperly reported an absence.
  • She improperly reported and allegedly lied about another absence.
  • She posted a credit card payment by one customer in another customer’s account.
  • She failed to properly complete a check transaction.

With the exception of allegedly lying about an absence, none of Jill's actions indicate that she was deliberately violated her employer’s standards of behavior—on the whole, these appear to be examples of carelessness, one after the other.  Administrative Law Judge Beth A. Scheetz determined that although each individual act was mere carelessness or negligence, all of them added up amounted to misconduct:

“Repeated failure to follow an employer’s instructions in the performance of duties is misconduct….An employer has a right to expect employees to follow instructions in the performance of the job. The claimant disregarded the employer’s right by repeatedly failing to follow the employer’s instructions. The claimant’s disregard of the employer’s interests is misconduct.”

It’s important to note that if Jill had just committed a single act of negligence or carelessness, even if it had cost her employer a lot of money, it would probably not have been misconduct.  The deciding factor was the fact that the employee had acted carelessly so many times. 

Every case is different, and people make innocuous mistakes on the job all the time.  You might be hesitant to apply for unemployment benefits because you think you were fired for misconduct, but maybe you weren’t.  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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