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When is missing work misconduct? Figure out if you can get unemployment benefits


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7/9/2014
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In Iowa, if you lost your job because of misconduct, you’ll be found ineligible for unemployment benefits.  There are a bunch of different things that can constitute misconduct, and excessive absenteeism—missing work too much, coming in late or leaving early more than a few times—is one of them.  Excused absences—for example, when you have a doctor’s note saying you can’t work—don’t count.  But there’s plenty of gray area.

Claire Miller (not her real name) was going through a rough period in her life—a number of stressful events happened in a short time period, and she missed some work.  She called into work on March 20th, saying she couldn’t work that day, the next day, or the 25th, because her cousin had been murdered and she had to attend two funerals.  Although her employer had told her she wouldn’t be asked to work on a day she had school, Ms. Miller was then assigned to work on three school days in April.  She called in on one of the school days, and the employer told her that work was short-staffed and asked if she had to go to school.  Then on April 27th, Ms. Miller called into work again, providing proper notification that her young child was in the hospital.  Her employer terminated her for excessive absenteeism.

Ms. Miller applied for unemployment benefits and was approved.  Her employer appealed.  But at the appeal, the employer wasn’t able to produce any evidence that Ms. Miller engaged in excessive absenteeism.  Administrative Law Judge Beth A. Scheetz ruled in Ms. Miller’s favor.  

Here’s some things that need to be clarified, though: the judge didn’t go as far as to say that the employee’s demands were ridiculous.  She didn’t even explicitly find that Ms. Miller’s absences were unexcused.  What the decision came down to was that Ms. Miller had properly reported her absences, and her employer didn’t carry its burden to show that the absences were excessive.

If you were fired for excessive absenteeism, you might be wondering if you can get unemployment benefits.  You might not get them, but applying might be worth a shot.  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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