Third-Party Misconduct Can Be a Problem
In some ways, the answer to the question of third-party misconduct depends on the actions of the employee, not the actions of the third party actually causing the disturbance. But third-party misconduct can be a big problem.
So what are the situations in which third-party misconduct will be imputed to an employee based on the actions of a third party? If the disruptions caused by the third party at a workplace are caused by the actions of the employee at work — or in some cases, outside of work — then misconduct can be found. Use by a third party of the employer’s assets and equipment to obtain a benefit for an employee has been found to be willful misconduct.
For example, in a case where a wife wrote a letter containing false information on behalf of the employee on the employer’s letterhead, the employee was discharged. The letter requested assistance for the employee. Even though the employee did not know about the letter, the letter benefitted the employee. The Board of Review denied benefits. Since the letter was written to benefit the claimant/employee, the claimant would not escape culpability. This amounted to misconduct. (88 AT 9248 BR)
But benefits have been allowed in cases where the employee had no control over the actions of a third party. For example, in a situation where the employee’s husband came into the employer’s store and caused a disturbance, the employee was discharged. Since the employee could not control the actions of her husband, no misconduct was shown and benefits were allowed. (83 BR 2403)
In a rather striking example, someone off-duty was at her place of employment along with her boyfriend. The employee and her employer got into a discussion regarding her pension plan at work. The employee’s boyfriend then stepped in and exchanged words with the employer. Feeling intimidated by the boyfriend, the employer fired the employee. Benefits were denied to the employee when she filed for them. At the Board of Review hearing, it was held that the employee was bound by her boyfriend’s actions since he had implied the authority to represent her in her discussion. Misconduct was shown and benefits were denied. (80 AT 9534; 81 BR 267)
No Benefits Allowed Where There is Misconduct
Benefits are disallowed in cases where an employee is discharged for misconduct in his or her last job. When an employee is discharged for misconduct, the employer has the burden of proving that the employee engaged in the misconduct. (OESC § 2-406; Okla. Stat. tit. 40 § 2-406.)
That burden of proof can be met by affidavit or other presenting evidence which shows the misconduct. Then the burden of proof shifts to the employee to show that the facts as presented are inaccurate, or in fact do not constitute misconduct.
These cases are quite fact-bound. That means that small facts can make a big difference when you file for unemployment benefits. Oklahoma unemployment is a complicated field. You need an unemployment expert to help you, especially if your claim has been denied. An experienced Tulsa unemployment lawyer can make the difference between getting benefits and not.
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