ILNews

Court rules on unemployment benefits case

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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Individuals who voluntarily quit a job in order to take care of a physically disabled relative are not entitled to unemployment benefits, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In Mildred Whiteside v. Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Unemployment Insurance Review Board and Division of Family & Children, 93A02-0703-EX-229, Whiteside appealed the decision of the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to deny her claim for unemployment benefits, saying the denial was contrary to Indiana law.

Whiteside was a full-time employee at the Indiana Division of Family & Children and voluntarily left her job in September 2006 to provide care for her quadriplegic son. She requested and was denied family medical leave because she had not worked the required 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. She had previously used FMLA leave to assist in her son's rehabilitation. After she resigned, Whiteside filed for unemployment benefits, which both the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and an administrative law judge denied. The administrative law judge concluded Whiteside voluntarily left her job without good cause in connection to her work. Whiteside appealed, and the Review Board affirmed the judge's decision.

In question in this appeal is whether Indiana Code Section 22-4-15-1(c)(2) applies to Whitehead in granting her unemployment benefits for taking care of her disabled son. Whitehead argues that one of the exclusions for physical disability in the statute applies to her ability to receive unemployment benefits. The section states "An individual whose unemployment is the result of medically substantiated physical disability and who is involuntary unemployed after having made reasonable efforts to maintain the employment relationship shall not be subject to the disqualification under this section for such separation."

The Court of Appeals, while commending Whitehead for leaving her job to take care of her son, affirmed the denial of her unemployment benefits, stating the Indiana Code section in question only applies to an individual with a disability, not to a family member. The language of the code does not include anything to indicate the disability of anyone other than the claimant should be considered. Under Whitehead's interpretation of the statute, people with ailing parents, siblings, children, spouses, and other dependents would be able to receive unemployment benefits, which is not the intended result of the statute.

Because Whitehead was not suffering the disability, the Review Board had no reason to consider or apply this statutory section in reaching its conclusion of law.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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