‘Poor Performance’ Not Justification for Unemployment Denial

A Missouri court recently ruled that a man’s termination for “poor performance” at work didn’t justify a denial of unemployment benefits.

The employee, Mark Wayne, was fired in 2019 after being written up several times for mistakes while loading freight. The employer challenged his unemployment claim, arguing that his failure to follow instructions amounted to “insubordination.”

A hearing officer denied Wayne’s claim and an appeals tribunal agreed. Both rulings relied on a 2014 state law that disqualified workers from unemployment compensation if they have violated an employer’s “rules.”

Wayne appealed further and an appeals court overturned the denial.

According to the court, the 2014 law had been misapplied and a rule violation couldn’t be considered misconduct if the employee wasn’t aware of the rule. Even if the employee knew his mistakes violated company rules, rules on mistakes, accidents, poor workmanship or bad judgment weren’t what the law intended to cover.

The lesson from this case is to talk to an employment law attorney before challenging an unemployment claim, since overreaching could end up costing you more than the claim itself.

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