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

Subject: Dean Ryan v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest LLC, Case No. 15-CV-157 (Wis. Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty. Nov. 2, 2015)

Digest Codes: PC 757 and MC 602

The employee worked for approximately 21 years as a truck driver for the employer, a waste removal company. The employer has a written policy which provides that workers who accumulate three preventable incidents within a 12-month period will be terminated. The employee had preventable incidents while driving the employer's truck on June 19, 2013, and November 15, 2014, and received progressive discipline. On November 28, 2014, the employee backed the employer's truck into a light pole which the employer deemed a preventable incident. On December 3, 2014, the employer discharged the employee from the employment. The commission found that the discharge was for substantial fault under Wis. Stat. § 108.04(5g).

Held: Affirmed.

The employee argued that he should be eligible for benefits because the employer's policy provides that three incidents in a 12-month period results in termination and he did not have three in a 12-month period. The employee also argued that his length of employment, with countless hours of overtime and no citations on his commercial driver's license, makes it unfair to deny him benefits. The Court noted that the fact that the employee had not had three preventable incidents within 12 months does not foreclose a finding of substantial fault. The Court further noted that the employee's fairness argument is not supported by the law.

The Court concluded that great weight deference applied, noting the commission's long history in interpreting and applying the unemployment statutes generally. The Court found that the commission reasonably applied the facts to the law and therefore its decision must be sustained. The Court also concluded that the commission's application of the facts to the “substantial fault” statute is the most reasonable interpretation and, as a result, even the lesser degree of deference requires affirmation of the commission's 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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