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

Subject: Diann C. Anderson v. State of Wisconsin, LIRC and Rusk County Memorial Hospital, Case 02-CV-26 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Rusk Co., October 15, 2002 Bench Decision)

Digest Codes: MC 640.01  BR 335.04

The employee worked for over three years as a registered nurse for the employer, a nursing home. The employer received a report that the employee had failed to follow internal nursing home procedures after receipt of a tornado warning. In response, the employer's administrator held an investigatory meeting with the employee on 5/11/01. The employee brought a friend to this meeting, and the employer was uncomfortable with this fact because the friend was not a co-worker and had no other relationship with the employer. All the matters concerning the incident were not resolved at this meeting, and the employer wanted to perform further investigation. Accordingly, a second meeting was scheduled for 5/14/01. A supervisor spoke with the employee prior to the second meeting, and the employee agreed that she would not bring the friend to this meeting, but would instead bring a nurse/co-worker with her. However, the employee unilaterally changed her mind and brought the friend to the meeting. When the administrator convened the meeting and saw the friend in the room he asked the employee to have her leave. He was concerned about patient confidentiality. The employee refused and after a standoff she stood up to leave. She told the employer she was leaving and at that point the employer discharged her.

The appeal tribunal found that the employee acted in good faith in believing that she had a right to have her friend present. Benefits were allowed. The commission reversed, finding that the employer's request was reasonable and that the employee never informed anyone of her basis for believing that she had a right to have a non-employee representative at the meeting. Waiver of the $8,138.00 overpayment was not granted because no department error was found. The employee appealed, arguing that the employer had acted unreasonably. The employee's attorney also argued that the commission should have waived her overpayment because it constituted a hardship to her.

Held: The commission's decision is affirmed. The employer had a reasonable basis for not wanting a non-employee present at this meeting involving internal matters, and the employee acted unreasonably by ignoring this demand and getting up to walk out of the meeting. The commission also acted within its authority in refusing to waive the overpayment. Equity is not a consideration in this statutory procedure, and waiver of all overpayments determined to constitute financial hardship would result in an unworkable procedure.

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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