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

Subject: Jackie K. Cooper vs. LIRC, Manpower and D Mark Group, Inc., Case No. 02 CV 222 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Grant Co., October 9, 2002) 

Digest Codes: MC 630.07  MC 665.12 

Cooper worked as a temporary employee for Manpower with an assignment at 3M in Prairie du Chien as a production laborer. He worked second shift on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In a telephone conversation before going to work on Friday, November 17, 2000, Cooper was told that his shift was going to change and that he would be working two days instead of three with a resulting reduction in hours. He reported to work about 2:00 p.m., talked to his supervisor and called Manpower and accepted a transfer to the available opening. At about 3:30 p.m. he slipped and fell and was taken to an emergency room for treatment. He was given a leg brace and crutches and instructed to ice his leg and keep it elevated. He was given morphine to help with severe pain. He was told to return in a week and not work during that week. Cooper claimed workers compensation based on this injury.  The Wisconsin gun deer season opened the next day. Cooper hunted with his brother on Saturday, November 18, 2000 and on Thursday, November 23, 2000, and on each day the brother shot two deer that Cooper registered. On November 20, 2000, Manpower asked Cooper to report to the Manpower office for an investigative report. Cooper stated he could not drive because of his medication. He was picked up from his home and taken to give the report. Cooper reported for follow up and additional medical treatment on November 24, 2000, and December 15, 2000.   Cooper returned to light duty work on December 19, 2000. He was told not to report to the light duty job the next day. He was suspended on December 26, 2000, and terminated by letter dated December 28, 2000.  The commission found that Cooper was discharged for misconduct. 

On appeal the Circuit Court noted that the commission did not find that Cooper feigned a work-related injury. The court stated that the decision is based on the commission's finding that Cooper went deer hunting but that the commission did not explain how Cooper's deer hunting was an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests. The timing and circumstances of Cooper's injury and his subsequent activity raise some significant level of suspicion about it. Once it is accepted that Cooper fell and was injured and that he was experiencing the symptoms that he complained about, it is difficult to conclude that simply by going deer hunting, given the various levels of activity possible in Wisconsin's program, that Cooper was guilty of misconduct. Since the commission did not explain what it meant when it found that Cooper went deer hunting, no determination can be made as to whether that activity was misconduct.  Therefore the court remanded the case to the commission to make specific findings of the activity Cooper engaged in and how that activity constituted misconduct. 

On remand the commission rejected Cooper's testimony concerning his lack of active participation in deer hunting. It found that the hunt results must have required physical activity on Cooper's part that was inconsistent with the statement concerning his activity provided in his medical exams. His statements concerning the extent of his injury were not truthful and amounted to falsification of a claimed work injury. This amounted to misconduct which disqualified him for unemployment benefits. Cooper again appealed.

Held: The commission was entitled to find that Cooper's statements concerning his lack of participation in deer hunting were not credible and that his claims for workers compensation benefits were falsified and amounted to misconduct. The commission's decision is affirmed and benefits are denied.

[LIRC decision]

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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