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

Subject: Andrea G. Barrette v. LIRC & Chilton Products, Case 00-CV-85 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Calumet Co., December 27, 2000)

Digest Codes:   VL 1080.20

The employee worked for six years as a general laborer and assembly person for the employer, a manufacturer of plastics. The employee was upset when, on an unspecified date, the employer transferred her to less desirable work duties so that her husband, who was a manager at the company, would not be making out her work schedule. But her major complaints concern harassment from her immediate supervisor named Jochimson. On one occasion Jochimson sent her home for wearing the wrong kind of shoes, which other employees were also wearing. On another occasion he gave her a warning concerning her hair length, which she again felt was an instance of being singled out from other employees. She also felt singled out when Jochimson warned her about sitting instead of standing while performing a particular job. Jochimson cursed at her on this occasion.

Finally, she became very upset on 3/17/00, when Jochimson again used foul language towards her when commenting about her job assignment. She left work after this comment and telephoned the employer’s human resources department to tell them she was quitting. She had not previously complained about Jochimson, and testified that she did not want to be labeled a troublemaker, nor cause her husband any problems with his position. Three days later a meeting was held between upper management and the employee, and at this time she first voiced her complaints about Jochimson. Management encouraged her to return to work in a different department or on a different shift where she would not be with Jochimson, but she refused. She felt Jochimson should be reprimanded and she should be able to stay in her own department.

The appeal tribunal and the commission found a quitting without good cause, based primarily on the employee’s refusal to accept the employer’s reasonable offer to transfer her away from Jochimson at the same rate of pay. The employee appealed and argued that since the employer had not appeared at the hearing, the presumption of eligibility should control. An alternative argument was that her quitting was with good cause because the employer did not offer to discipline Jochimson.

Held: In a bench decision the court affirmed the commission. The court held that the presumption of eligibility was rebutted by the employee’s own testimony taken at the hearing. The employee was offered a reasonable alternative to quitting, and she had not complained about Jochimson’s behavior prior to quitting. The commission’s decision is entitled to great weight and is reasonable.

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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