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

Subject: Simplicity Manufacturing, Inc. v. LIRC and Robert L. Klein, et al., Case No. 90-CV-1174(Wis. Cir. Ct., Dane Co., December 17, 1990) 

Digest Codes: AA 126.4 - Voluntary LOA for a definite period - "Voluntariness" of leave - scheduled plant shutdown

Employes were entitled to two weeks paid vacation. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) allowed the employer to designate a week of plant shut-down in the summer as a period in which one week of this vacation entitlement had to be taken. Employes were allowed to take their second week of vacation when they chose. However, the CBA also provided that there would be another week of plant shutdown in Christmas week, and that employes who did not save their other week of vacation for this period would be deemed to be on a "personal leave of absence" that week. Some employes took their vacation at other times, had no paid vacation entitlement for the Christmas week, and sought benefits for that week, which the department allowed. 

The employer argued that the employes were ineligible because they were on a "voluntary leave of absence" within the meaning of section 108.04 (1)(b)2. during the week in question. It emphasized the choice the employes had to save their week of paid vacation and the fact that the employes' union had agreed on their behalf that there would be a Christmas shutdown week and that employes not saving their paid vacation for use in that week would be deemed on leave of absence. 

LIRC affirmed the department, concluding that the employes' absence in the week in question was not voluntary. It held that the lack of work in the week in question, standing alone, made 108.0 (1)(b)2. inapplicable, and it relied as well on the rule of Roberts v. Industrial Comm., 2 Wis. 2d 399 (1957), that rights of employes to benefits cannot be determined by CBA's. Arguing before the Circuit Court, LIRC withdrew its reliance on the fact that no work was available in the week at issue, but it continued to argue that 108.04 (1)(b)2. was not applicable because the absences were not voluntary and that a CBA could not render them "constructively voluntary".

Held: Affirmed. The change in LIRC's rationale from its decision to what it argued to the court did not require a reversal, since the court is obliged to affirm if the result arrived at by LIRC is legally supported. Employes were not ineligible under 108.04(1)(b)2. because their absences were not voluntary. A collective bargaining agreement cannot make such absences "voluntary". 

[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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