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

Subject: Lennis Reynolds v. LIRC and U.S. Postal Service, Case 10 CV 2505 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Racine Co., January 18, 2011)

Digest Codes: VL 1007.01 - Discharge, Layoff or Quit? - General - accepting layoff in lieu of a suspension or termination by the employer of another employe's work; VL 1036 - Quit to retire

The employee worked for the U.S. Postal Service which, in order to reduce the size of its workforce, offered a Voluntary Early Retirement package. Incentive for accepting the package was $15,000, $10,000 payable in the first year of retirement, $5,000 in the second.

As of the time the employee accepted the offer, the employer had not laid off any of its workers. In addition, had the employee refused the offer, he could have continued working until his normal retirement date (December 2017). Even as of the time of the hearing, the employer had not laid off any workers; it had transferred some to different locations, something the employee had not wanted to happen to him. An informational flyer about the package the employee had received, stated that one could not collect unemployment benefits if he or she took this incentive and voluntarily separated from employment.

The commission held that the employee's quit did not fall within Wis. Stat. § 108.04(7)(am), because the employee could not point to a co-worker whose job was saved because of the employee"s having taken the employer's early retirement offer.

Held: Affirmed. The court implicitly gave great weight to the commission's conclusion of law (by 1. noting that Berry v. LIRC, 213 Wis. 2d 397, 570 N.W.2d 620 (Ct. App. 1997), where the court gave great weight deference to the commission's interpretation of Wis. Stat. § 108.04(7)(am), was authoritative; and 2. applying the review standard for great weight deference, “not unreasonable”). The court quoted extensively from Berry, in particular its requirements of an identifiable, threatened suspension of another employee's work, and that there be a “one-for-one” correspondence between those who take an early retirement package and those who remain employed as a result. The employee did not establish that the commission's interpretation of the statute was unreasonable, or that Berry was not the appropriate legal authority for resolution of the issue. Thus, since he did not establish that, had he not accepted the $15,000 and retired early, someone else at the employer would have lost his or her job, his quit was not within Wis. Stat. § 108.04(7)(am).

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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