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

Subject: Richard S. Novell vs. Labor and Industry Review Commission, and Accountemps/Office Team Staffing Service., Case 14-CV-3713 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Milwaukee Co., June 1, 2015)

Digest Codes: BR 339

The claimant worked for an employer for years, becoming eligible for a severance package. He was let go from that work in March 2012, and in May 2012 he began receiving bi-monthly severance payments from that employer. Although receiving those benefits, he also began working again, for a temporary agency. He then had to quit that job for medical reasons. He then applied for UI. He was found ineligible because of his quitting of the temp job, and an ALJ affirmed the determination of ineligibility.

The claimant then petitioned for LIRC review, effectively conceding that the quit was disqualifying, but asserting that by that time he had requalified for benefit eligibility by virtue of his continued receipt of severance payments from his former employer. In its decision affirming claimant's ineligibility because of the quit, the commission also addressed and rejected the claimant's requalification argument, reasoning that the severance payments did not count towards requalification because, although they were received after the quit, they were not “earned” after the quit. The claimant sought judicial review.

Held: LIRC's decision is AFFIRMED. The only wages that count for purposes of requalifying are wages that the worker “earns . . . after the week in which the termination occurs.” The commission ruled correctly that the severance payments the claimant received did not qualify as wages the claimant “earn[ed] . . . after the week in which the termination occur[ed].” This ruling regarding severance pay was consistent with commission decisions in analogous cases involving other kinds of payments earned in the past by a claimant's work for a former employer. The court rejects the claimant's argument that LIRC's decision was inconsistent with statutory sections having to do with partial unemployment benefits and when severance payments are counted. The statutes work differently because they are worded differently. The other statute on which the claimant relies does not use the word “earns” and its operation does not hinge on when the pay is “earned,” but rather on when it is received.

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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