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Judges reverse grant of unemployment benefits

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that if an employee’s explanation for the behavior that led to his termination is another terminable offense, that provides just cause for termination. As a result, the judges reversed the decision to grant a fired man unemployment benefits.

In Alebro, LLC v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Jason Scheidell, No. 93A02-1110-EX-970, Alebro, which is a retail seller of salt, appealed the grant of unemployment benefits to terminated employee Jason Scheidell. Scheidell worked for the company for seven years and during that time, some of the company’s salt had been missing. The company learned in 2011 that Scheidell had approached a customer offering to sell him the same salt at a cheaper price. He conducted the sale at Alebro’s property.

Scheidell was fired for theft, but because Alebro didn’t follow proper procedure to admit evidence of the theft, Scheidell was able to rebut the theft allegation. He claimed he did not steal the salt, but just breached his duty of loyalty by selling salt on company property at a lower price. This is also a terminable offense.

The COA concluded that Scheidell is ineligible for benefits because he attempted to rebut the allegation that he stole from Alebro by admitting instead that he only breached his duty of loyalty by selling salt on the company’s property for cheaper than Alebro did, another terminable offense. The judges rejected Scheidell’s argument that their review is limited only to the theft charges. The appellate court decided that the reasoning of Voss v. Review Board of Dept. of Emp’t and Training Servs., 533 N.E.2d 1020, 1021 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989), on which Scheidell relied for his argument, is no longer applicable when an employee defends his behavior against a stated offense by admitting another terminable one.

“He no longer requires the protection of fair notice because he is the one setting forth the allegations of his terminable offenses, not his employer. To do otherwise would allow an employee to turn the shield of Voss into a sword, using his own terminable offenses to obtain undeserved unemployment benefits. This would turn Voss on its head and accomplish the opposite of what the holding in Voss is designed to do,” wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Judge Terry Crone concurred with a separate opinion in which he wrote about why he believes initials should be used in these types of cases instead of identifying the parties.

 

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