• January 4, 2012

The Minnesota Court of Appeals last week highlighted an important new exception to the general rule that an employee who commits misconduct is not eligible for unemployment compensation.

James Cunningham worked at a Wal-Mart store in Fridley.   In November 2008, he suffered a series of four mini-strokes; these caused him lingering problems with memory and concentration.

After a series of performance issues, Wal-Mart directed Cunningham to prepare a written plan of action detailing how he would meet the company’s expectations.   Cunningham did not write a plan, and he did not report to work or call in for his next five shifts.  As a result, Wal-Mart fired him for job abandonment and opposed his application for unemployment compensation.

After a telephone hearing, the Unemployment Law Judge concluded that Cunningham’s failure to report or call-in represented disqualifying misconduct because it was a serious violation of the standards that his employer had a right to expect.   On appeal, with the help of the William Mitchell Law Clinic, Cunningham argued that the ULJ erred by failing to consider a 2009 amendment to Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(b)(1); the new law provides that conduct resulting from an applicant’s mental illness or impairment is not misconduct.   Because the record supported the finding that Cunningham’s failure to report to work was a consequence of his mental impairments, the Court of Appeals concluded that the conduct for which he was discharged did not amount to misconduct.

Congratulations to Clinic Co-Director Peter Knapp and Certified Student Attorney Justin McCluskey.

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