Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission --
Summary of Wisconsin Court Decision relating to Unemployment Insurance

Subject: Barbara Zielinski-Tates (Hrg. No. 97601904MW) v. State of Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission and Inland Companies, Inc, Case 98-CV-531 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Waukesha Co., January 6, 1999)

Digest Codes: MC 610.04

Employe worked for a building management company. The employer had a contract for the management of a building owned by the employe's brother. Without the knowledge of the employer, the employe agreed that she would take over management of her brother's building through her own business. As a result, the building cancelled its contract with the employer. When it learned that that the employe had agreed to do the work, the employer fired the employe. The commission held that the employe had been discharged for misconduct, consisting of acting in competition with her employer while still in its employ.

On appeal, the employe argued that she had only been contemplating going into competition with her employer, and that the law recognized the right of employes to contemplate and even take steps to prepare for engaging in competition with their employer so long as they did not actually engage in acts of competition while still employed.

Held: Commission's conclusion of misconduct is affirmed. The commission's construction of the "misconduct" standard is entitled to great weight. The court agrees with the commission's argument, that by actually offering to do the work in question, the employe went beyond merely "contemplating" or "planning" or "preparing for" competition with her employer. The client's contract with the employer continued unless affirmative action was taken by the client to terminate it. The employe's offer to do the work allowed the client to take the step of cancellation.

Please note that this is a summary prepared by staff of the commission, not a verbatim reproduction of the court decision.

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