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

Subject: Eugene J. Hoegele  v. Elder Care Line, Inc. & LIRC, (Hearing No. 98605050MW) (Case 98-CV-009305, Wis. Cir. Ct., Milwaukee Co., November 11, 1999)

Digest Codes: MC 630.07   MC 692

The employe worked as a driver for a company which transports elderly people. Two days after he was hired on 11/3/97, the DOT sent him an Order of Cancellation which stated that due to his medical condition, his driver license was being cancelled effective 11/5/97. The letter specifically listed cancellation of license types B, C, and D, and also referred to the fact that the employe’s S (school bus) and P (passenger) endorsements had been previously cancelled. The employer’s Employe Handbook included a warning that immediate dismissal could result if an employe were to drive with a suspended license, but despite the fact that the employe had received this handbook, he kept on driving for the employer without informing it of his license cancellation.

On 1/24/98, the employe was pulled over by a policeman while driving a vehicle, and cited for operating without a valid license. The employe asserted that he was surprised to learn at that time that his regular driver license had been cancelled along with his commercial driver license. However, he continued to drive for the employer and was able to get his license renewed on 4/23/98. Subsequently, the employer audited information it had previously received from DOT, and discovered that the employe had been driving without a license between 11/3/97 and 4/23/98. It thereupon discharged him.

The appeal tribunal found misconduct based on the employe’s dishonesty and the fact that his actions could have affected the employer’s insurability. The commission affirmed. The employe argued that the employer was negligent in not discovering his license cancellation sooner, that he was unaware of the passenger license cancellation until 1/24/98, and that he took immediate steps to get his license reinstated.

Held: The finding of misconduct is affirmed. Even if the employe was initially unaware of the cancellation of his passenger license, which the court seemed to agree was dubious given the clear notice provided in the DOT letter of 11/5/97, he was made aware of it when the policeman pulled him over. Still, he continued to drive and did not inform the employer of the cancellation. His actions constituted misconduct. The court paid no attention to the employe’s argument that the employer had been negligent for not discovering the cancellation sooner. The court also acknowledged that great weight deference is due the commission’s determination under Wis. Stat. 108.04(5).

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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