If you were fired for misconduct, you can’t get unemployment benefits in Iowa. But what your employer thinks is misconduct isn’t necessarily what the law says is misconduct. Case in point: According to a recent decision, an employee was fired from Hibbs Excavating and Grading in mid-January.
The employee was hired as a full-time operator in September 2013 and was tardy nine times throughout his employment. He was twice told not to be tardy again. On December 31st, this worker was pulled over in a company truck and was cited for having an expired license. He notified his employer of the problem immediately, and his employer elected not to fire him due to being out of town and possibly needing him to clear snow.
This was the same day he had received the second of his two tardiness reprimands. He was not tardy again. He also renewed his license. But his employer fired him on January 14th for excessive tardiness and driving on an expired license. The employee who was fired applied for Iowa unemployment benefits and benefits were granted; his employer appealed.
On April 1, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Beth A. Scheetz decided in the employee's favor. Iowa law states, “While past acts and warnings can be used to determine the magnitude of a current act of misconduct, a discharge for misconduct cannot be based on such past act or acts. The termination of employment must be based on a current act.”
Perhaps the employee had certainly engaged in misconduct, but his tardiness and driving on an expired license were past acts of misconduct, not current acts. Every time the employee showed up late to work, his employer had the opportunity to fire him, but must have weighed the costs and benefits and decided not to. The same goes for when this employee let his employer know he had been driving on an expired license. The employer could have terminated him then and there, but decided the cost would be too high. Then, at the time of firing, this employee had a current license and had not engaged in any recent tardiness. There was no current act of misconduct to warrant firing him.
What can this employee's case teach you? First, that you might have been fired for misconduct or what seems like misconduct, and still be eligible for Iowa unemployment benefits. Second, every case is different. It’s rare to find a case where one party is completely in the right—this employee was a full thirty minutes late to work one day!—and employment cases often depend on how well you can get the judge to hear the facts of your case. To get the best odds for yourself, you need a lawyer on your side.
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.