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

Subject: PATRICIA K. BERNHARDT  (Hrg. No. 93609298MW) and CANDACE SEIB (Hrg. Nos. 93609229MW, 93608790MW) v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Briggs & Stratton Corp.  Appealed to Court of Appeals; affirmed by Court of Appeals Nov. 13, 1996  sub nom. Bernhardt v. LIRC and Briggs & Stratton Corp., 207 Wis. 2d 292, 558 N.W.2d 874 (Ct. App. 1996) .

Digest Codes:  MC 657  MC 683

Employes were suspended and then discharged for allegedly taking part in a work slowdown which was in violation of a no-strike agreement in their union’s collective bargaining agreement with the employer. They asserted that they were merely engaging in a "work-to-rule" campaign which, under federal labor law precedent, was protected activity which did not violate the no-strike clause. The commission held that the employes had gone beyond merely working to the confines of the employer’s rules, and had intentionally slowed their work and failed to perform their work up to their capabilities as part of a concerted union campaign to put pressure on the employer in connection with a bargaining dispute. Thus, they were suspended and discharged for misconduct. The circuit court affirmed. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the employes argued that the finding that there was a "slowdown" was unsupported, and that they were engaged in a "work to rule" campaign which was permissible under federal labor law.

Held: Affirmed  by Court of Appeals. Credible evidence in the record supports the finding that there was a significant slowdown, and that the employes were intentionally slowing the pace of their work. The court need not look to federal labor law on this question in order to construe the Wisconsin UC Act. The conclusion of misconduct drawn from these findings is entitled to great weight, and is upheld. Finally, the commission satisfactorily met its responsibility to articulate reasons for its disagreement with the ALJ.

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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