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

Subject: Gloria Watkins v. LIRC and American Science & Surplus, Inc., Case 05CV10425 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Milwaukee Co., June 16, 2006)

Digest Codes: PC 712.6

After she appealed an initial determination which found her ineligible for benefits, the employee failed to appear at the hearing, and her appeal was dismissed. She submitted a written explanation and a hearing was held on the question of whether there was good cause for her failure to appear at hearing. The employee explained that she had contacted an attorney who had agreed to request a postponement on her behalf. The attorney filed a request for a postponement by FAX, after hours on the Friday before the scheduled Monday hearing. Despite not receiving confirmation from either the attorney or the department that the postponement request had been granted, the employee chose not to attend the hearing. The ALJ deciding the good cause issue concluded that no good cause for non-appearance was shown, and LIRC affirmed. On appeal, the employee argued to the court that she was under the mistaken impression that the postponement request would be granted.

Held: The decision that there was no good cause for the non-appearance at hearing, is affirmed. LIRC’s interpretation and application of the “good cause” standard for non-appearance at hearing, is entitled to great weight deference. Good cause has been interpreted to mean “a substantial reason…a reason beyond that of negligence, carelessness or inattentiveness.” LIRC’s conclusion that the employee’s failure to appear at hearing was not for good cause, but amounted to ordinary negligence, is reasonable and not contrary to the statute.

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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