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

Subject: Jerome A. Beatty (Hearing No. 96400410WB) v. LIRC and A Titan Wheel Company, Case No. 98-1629, (Wis. Ct. App., District 2, June 16, 1999) (unpublished)

Please note that Wis. Stat. 809.23(3) provides that an unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals is of no precedential value and for that reason may not be cited in any court in this state as precedent or authority. Summaries of unpublished Court of Appeals decisions are included in this collection as an informational service only, and their use contrary to 809.23(3) is not encouraged.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 670  MC 668

The employe worked for about seven years as a laborer for the employer, a manufacturer. The employer had an established, written policy forbidding sexual harassment. In December 1995, three female co-workers complained together that the employe had been making them very uncomfortable with sexually-suggestive behavior. This included inappropriate comments concerning their body parts, and other suggestive comments. There was also inappropriate touching of two of the women. The employer suspended the employe upon receiving those complaints, and after an investigation discharged him. The appeal tribunal found no misconduct under the rationale that the employe had acted the same way over a period of years, but had never been informed by the co-workers or the employer that his actions were unwelcome. The commission reversed and found that a warning was not necessary because the evidence led to the inference that the employe intentionally violated the employer’s rule against sexual harassment. The employe appealed and argued that his statements and actions were merely inappropriate or misguided, and that he had no reason to know that they were unwelcome, because nothing had been said to him about the problem prior to his suspension.

Held: The finding of misconduct was affirmed by the circuit court and the court of appeals. Both courts accepted the commission’s factual finding that the employe knew his actions were unwelcome. The circuit court added that requiring an employe to personally confront her harasser invites a repetition of the unwelcome behavior. The court of appeals spent a good deal of its decision explaining that the commission’s decision was entitled to great weight deference, because determining whether an employe’s sexually-harassing behavior amounts to misconduct is just another application of the commission’s expertise in applying Wis. Stat. 108.04(5). The court of appeals also emphasized that the commission credibly found that the employe intentionally violated the employer’s work rules against sexual harassment. The court of appeals did not recommend publication.

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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