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

Subject: Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, Chad R. Maurer and Manpower US Inc., Case No. 14-CV-427 (Wis. Cir. Ct. Waukesha Cnty. Mar. 17, 2015)

Digest Codes: BR 330 – Concealment of material facts by claimant; forfeiture for

Digest Summary: The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) brought a lawsuit against the commission challenging the commission’s findings that the claimant, Chad Maurer, did not conceal work and wages when filing benefit claims in 2013. The commission found that the claimant misunderstood what he had been told in the past by a department representative and that his failure to report work and wages from a temporary agency was indicative of confusion rather than an intent to mislead or defraud the department. The commission did not consult with the administrative law judge (ALJ) before reversing the ALJ’s appeal tribunal decisions. The claimant was required to repay benefits he received to which he was not entitled, but he was not required to pay additional concealment penalties or to forgo future benefits.

The department appealed the commission’s decision to circuit court.

Held: Affirmed.

The circuit court, after striking DWD’s initial brief because it contained assertions of facts outside the record created at the hearing before the administrative law judge, concluded that DWD failed to prove that the commission’s findings of fact were not supported by credible and substantial evidence in the record. The court also concluded that the commission’s interpretation of the concealment statute, Wis. Stat. § 108.04(11), is entitled to great weight deference. Under that standard, the court concluded that DWD did not prove that the commission’s interpretation of the concealment statute was unreasonable or contrary to the clear meaning of the statute. Finally, the court rejected DWD’s contention that the commission was required to consult with the ALJ before reversing the ALJ’s decisions, because the commission agreed with the ALJ’s credibility finding. The difference between the decisions of the ALJ and the commission was as to the legal consequences of the credibility finding. Legal differences between the appeal tribunal and the commission do not trigger the special requirements of consultation. With a minor clarification as to the final week of issue, the court confirmed the commission’s decision in its entirety.

The department did not appeal the circuit court’s decision to the court of appeals.

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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