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

Subject: John W. Kneubuhler II (Hrg. No. 96001045MD) v. LIRC and Oscar Mayer Corp.,
No. 97-1963, Ct. App. Dist. IV, February 12, 1998, unpublished.

Please note that Wis. Stat. sec. 809.23(3) provides that an unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals is of no precedential value and for that reason may not be cited in any court in this state as precedent or authority. Summaries of unpublished Court of Appeals decisions are included in this collection as an informational service only, and their use contrary to 809.23(3) is not encouraged.

Digest Codes: MC 640.15

The employe, who worked in meat slicing, interrupted a supervisor’s conversation about him, loudly demanding to know how the supervisor knew what he was saying and asserting that they were out to get him, and when another supervisor intervened he told her to mind her own business and swore at the other supervisor and a co-worker. He was discharged for his behavior. LIRC found the employe was discharged for misconduct.

On appeal, the circuit court affirmed, holding that the commission had considerable experience in interpreting and applying the misconduct standard, and that while it had arrived at different results in cases involving use of obscene expletives in the workplace, such cases rest on specific, case-by-case, fact-by-fact analysis, and it had not been shown that the commission has used different standards. The court held that it was appropriate to extend great weight deference to the commission’s conclusion of law on the misconduct issue, and that being disrespectful to supervisors and swearing at supervisors and co-workers is reasonably interpreted as a deliberate violation of standards of behavior which an employer has a right to expect.

Held: The court of appeals affirmed. The court gives great weight to the commission's conclusions of law on the question of whether Kneubuhler's actions were misconduct. The 2 decisions he cites involving use of profanity directed to supervisors in which misconduct was not found, are in contrast to 4 others cited by the commission in which misconduct was found. These different outcomes do not show a lack of uniformity in the standard employed by the commission. Rather, they demonstrate the variety of factual situations which confront the commission and the difficulty in formulating specific rules. That is precisely why the courts accord great weight to the commission's decisions in this area. The commission could reasonably view Kneubuhler's actions as misconduct notwithstanding the fact that use of profanity was common in the plant, since use of profanity in general among workers can be distinguished from its use directed at a supervisor. The commission could also reasonably view Kneubuhler's actions as misconduct notwithstanding his 27-year work history. Under great weight, the conclusion of the commission is upheld if reasonable even if (as here) another conclusion might also be reasonable.

[LIRC decision in this case] [Circuit Court decision summary]

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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