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

Subject: Robert D. T. Wright v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Alpha Homes of Wisconsin, Case 08 CV 2981 (Wis. Cir. Ct., Racine Co., April 17, 2009)

Digest Codes: VL 1007.01   VL 1038

The employee worked several years as a residential care coordinator for the employer, an entity that provided group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Over a period of four months, the employee saw what he believed to be a significant pattern of neglect of clients by co-workers and by the employer. This pattern came to a head in the early morning hours of March 27, 2008. At that time, the employee prepared a report outlining the neglect he believed was occurring, and then sent the report to various governmental agency workers who coordinated the care of the clients in question, including county agency personnel and the state licensing inspector. The employee then removed all of his personal effects from his office and went home. Later that morning, the employer became aware of the report. The employer was not concerned that the employee had made a report to the state, but rather that the employee’s allegations were overblown due to the employee’s not having all of the facts surrounding the matters in question. The employer also believed that, in the report, the employee had wrongly criticized a co-worker. Because of these concerns, the employer left a message for the employee, suspending his employment and instructing him to report to a meeting later that afternoon. In response, the employee quit his employment, alleging the employer had wrongly retaliated against the employee by suspending his employment for having sent out the report on the alleged neglect.

The commission found that the employee quit his employment, without good cause attributable to the employer pursuant to Wis. Stat. 108.04(7)(b). First, the commission found, based on the employee’s having removed his personal effects from the workplace before being informed of his suspension, that he had determined to quit before he learned of the suspension. As for the neglect, the commission reasoned that the employee was obligated to have given the employer opportunity to address his complaints, and the employee had not done so.

Held: AFFIRMED. The court found that it was for the commission, as the finder of fact, to determine that the employee had established intent to quit before the suspension.  The trier of fact could give greater weight to the unequivocal act of the employee in removing himself and all his personal effects from the employer's premises before he ever knew or was aware of the telephone call from the owners. That act alone is sufficient for the triers of fact to determine that the employee decided to quit and did quit at the time he left the employer's premises.  The triers of fact were also entitled to consider the employee's self-interest in his testimony that he did not decide to quit until after he received the calls informing him of the suspension. 

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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