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

Subject:  Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development vs. Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission and Martin R. Lash, Case 14-CV-98 (Wis. Cir. Ct. Door Cnty. Feb. 13, 2015)

Digest Codes: BR 330 – Concealment of material facts by claimant; forfeiture for

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) brought a lawsuit against the commission challenging the commission's findings in seven separate decisions that the claimant, Martin Lash, did not conceal work and wages when filing benefit claims in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The commission found that the claimant did not intentionally provide incorrect information to the department in order to receive benefits to which he knew he was not entitled. Based on a determination made by the department in the past, the claimant believed that the bookkeeping work he performed for his church was done as an independent contractor and he was, for that reason, not required to report work performed, wages earned, or a separation on his weekly claim forms. The claimant reported his work, wages, vacation pay, and separation from his primary employers on a consistent and accurate basis. There was no intent on the part of the claimant to mislead or defraud the department. The claimant was required to repay benefits he received to which he was not entitled, but he was not required to pay additional concealment penalties or to forgo future benefits.

The department appealed the commission's decisions to circuit court.

Held: Affirmed.

The circuit court confirmed that its review is limited to the record developed during the administrative hearing process and that it could not consider, as DWD requested, facts or evidence not already part of that record. The court found that DWD failed to meet its burden on judicial review to have the court set aside the commission's decisions, because the commission's findings of fact are supported by substantial and credible evidence and the commission's interpretation of Wis. Stat. § 108.04(11)(g) is not unreasonable or contrary to the clear and plain meaning of the statute. The court found that the commission's interpretation is entitled to great or due weight deference and agreed with the commission that the “statute requires proof of something more than simply providing inaccurate or false information by a claimant.”

The department did not appeal the circuit court's decision to the court of appeals.

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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