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

Subject: Pride Contractors, Inc. v. Robert F. KNUTH and LIRC, No. 00 CV 153 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Wood Co., September 22, 2000) 

Digest Codes:  -- MC 610.08   MC 689    MC 665.12

The employee worked as a construction foreman for the employer, a general contractor, for about 16 months. In July or August 1999 he was assigned to a project at a school. An HVAC contractor, hired directly by the school, installed an air conditioning unit on the building roof. This installation required making a hole in a rubber roof. A representative of the HVAC contractor told the employee that he had attempted to notify the roofing contractor but was unable to do so. The employee was also unable to contact the roofing contractor. The HVAC contractor asked the employee if the employee could cover the hole and how much it would cost. The employee said he would do it after work and the cost would be $100. The employee fixed the hole and never billed anyone for the work and did not receive any payment for the work.

In October 1999 the employer issued a letter to all employees establishing uniform working hours for all employees. The employee scheduled employees working on a project he was in charge of to different hours for the convenience of the employer’s client. The employer fired the employee on November 19, 1999 for these two incidents. The commission found that the discharge was not for misconduct and allowed unemployment benefits.

Held: While it is understandable that the employer was dissatisfied with the employee, his conduct was not a wanton disregard of the employer’s interests. In repairing the roof to prevent water damage the employee did not have any self-interest but acted only in the interest of the project. Similarly the work schedules were set to accommodate the client to insure the work was completed. It is reasonable to conclude from another point of view that the employee might be commended for taking the initiative, however misplaced it might be in the employer’s eyes, to do what needed to be done to get the job done.

The court agrees independently with the commission’s decision but also defers to the commission’s judgment as to the level of behavior necessary to constitute misconduct. Benefits allowed.

[LIRC decision]

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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