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

Subject: Professionally Speaking, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Russell L. Murray (Hrg. No. 97605916MW), Case 98-CV-002293  (Wis. Cir. Ct., Milwaukee Co., November 11, 1998)

Digest Codes: VL 1059.20

The employe initially worked for employer, a fund-raising organization, on commission, but then an agreement was reached to change the structure of his pay to a weekly base rate of $350 for a 35-hour week. Subsequently, the employe took days of work off on a number of occasions, with notice to and permission of the employer. For those weeks, in which he worked less than 35 hours, the employer paid him only the commissions he actually earned, or the minimum wage multiplied by the number of hours he had worked in the week, whichever was greater. When the employer explained that this was the way it was going to compute his wages in weeks he worked less than 35 hours, the employe quit.

Reversing an Administrative Law Judge who had denied benefits, the commission held that the employer's method of computing the employe's pay gave him good cause attributable to the employer to quit his employment, within the meaning of Wis. Stat. 108.04(7)(b). The commission found that while the parties had agreed on pay of $350 for a 35-hour week, there had never been any agreement on how the employe would be paid if, with notice to and permission of the employer, he worked less than 35 hours in a week. The commission held that the employer's unilateral reduction in the effective rate of the employe's pay was highly punitive and inherently unreasonable. The employer appealed.

Held: Affirmed. The commission's construction and application of the "good cause attributable to the employer" standard is entitled to great weight. The commission's findings, including the finding that there had been no agreement on pay rate in weeks of less than 35 hours and thus no agreement by the employe to the type of reduction made by the employer, are supported by the record. The interpretation of the "good cause" standard was a proper one and was not unreasonable.

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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