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

Subject: Patricia Cavey  v. LIRC, Legal Aid Society, Inc., and Gibbens Co., Case 97-CV-4854 (Wis.Cir.Ct., Milwaukee Co., August 20, 1998)

Digest Codes: MC 666.01   PC 733

Employe, an attorney for a legal aid society, was fired after disclosing personnel information including pay information concerning other employes. ATD found no misconduct, but LIRC, after consultation with the ALJ, reversed and found misconduct. LIRC found that the employe had copied and distributed salary and other personnel information contained in a number of employer documents which were subject to an employer policy that provided that such information was confidential and that provided that disclosure except as authorized would be grounds for termination. Employe appealed, asserting that the information had all been subject to disclosure under the Open Records Law and that therefore it could not be "confidential". Employe also asserted that LIRC did not satisfy the requirement that it consult with the ALJ concerning credibility and demeanor in that LIRC had allegedly inquired of the ALJ only as to what evidence he found "persuasive".

Held: Affirmed. LIRC satisfied the consultation requirement. It talked to the ALJ, it documented that fact, and it documented the reasons for its disagreement. Employe's argument concerning the commission's use of the word `persuasive' is "fribbling sophistry"; LIRC's description of its consultations shows that it concerned credibility issues. Furthermore, LIRC reasonably concluded that demeanor was not critical to the ALJ's credibility assessment where he explained his views by reference to the content of testimony and not as to the manner of its presentation.

On the merits, the finding of misconduct is affirmed. Even if all of the information the employe disclosed was subject to an open records request, that does not mean the employe was entitled to obtain it by rummaging through the employer's records; the employe had no more right to obtain the data directly than the court would to walk in off the street and go through this employer's files. Just because information is obtainable does not mean that it is unimportant how you obtain it. The record is so clear, that the employe understood that unauthorized acquisition and disclosure of the information about other employes' salaries would be contrary to the employers' policies, and that she willfully engaged in that conduct with intentional disregard for her employer's interests, that the commission's decision would be upheld under any standard of review.

[LIRC decision]. Circuit Court decision appealed to Court of Appeals.  Appeal voluntarily dismissed by appellant February 21, 2000.

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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