If you were fired for misconduct, Iowa Workforce Development won’t let you have unemployment benefits.  You might assume that swearing on the job is considered misconduct, but that isn’t always so.  If you were fired for using profanity in the workplace, your employer would undoubtedly argue that you were fired for misconduct.  But IWD isn’t necessarily going to agree with that.

The employee was working for LR Jewelers as a sales clerk and was interested in becoming a jeweler.  He asked another employer about opportunities in this line of business, and his boss at LR found out.  The boss, Connie, confronted the employee about this, and he got flustered and twice said “I’m a fuck-up.”  He said this is the presence of a customer.  The employee was fired.  He had no disciplinary issues on his record, and had received no warnings. 

Profanity or disrespectful language can constitute misconduct even if it only happens once, but in each case it’s up to an administrative law judge to determine whether misconduct actually occurred.  On April 1st, Administrative Law Judge Randy L. Stephenson  determined that in this case, there was no misconduct:

“[The employee] was discharged for a single incident of using profanity. While a jewelry store is a more decorous setting than a factory, claimant’s profane remarks while a serious enough to merit a discharge, they are not so substantial as to warrant a denial of unemployment benefits.”

Judge Stephenson didn’t analyze the case beyond that.  But there were a couple of factors that might have worked in the employee's favor.  First of all, although he swore, he didn’t swear at anyone in particular.  His language seems to have been more directed at himself, and not at his boss, co-workers or customers.  Secondly, and related to this, there was no hint of a threat or evil intent on the employee's part—he seems to have just been mad at himself.   Thirdly, there was no evidence of an employee handbook giving the employer’s policy on profanity.

What all of this adds up to is that even though LR Jewelers may have been justified in firing the employee., his conduct wasn’t so egregious as to disqualify him for unemployment benefits.  He did something regretable, but he was still able to get unemployment benefits.  This should be a lesson for anyone who wants to get unemployment benefits but is anxious that their prior actions will be thrown back in their faces—it’s worth the time and the effort to apply. 

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