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Justices uphold denial of benefits for fired employee

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Indiana Justice Steven David authored a unanimous opinion Wednesday in which the court held “when the facts of a case support more than one statutory ground for discharge, we are not confined to narrowly review the [Indiana Department of Workforce Development] Review Board’s decision when the facts point to the Review Board’s ultimately correct conclusion.”

In J.M. v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and T.C., 93S02-1203-EX-138, the Supreme Court upheld the denial of unemployment benefits to J.M., a former employee in an unnamed county surveyor’s office. J.M. sought to take a class during work hours and make up the time later by working through lunch and working later hours. His supervisor told J.M. that he could take the class, but he would have to use vacation time instead, as that has been the office policy.

The employee handbook also states an employee can face discipline for “disobeying a reasonable order … or to comply with written or verbal instructions.”

J.M. took the class anyway, and did not log all missed hours with personal time. He instead worked through a lunch and came in early sometimes. He was fired in September 2010.

His unemployment claim was initially denied, but an administrative law judge reversed. The county appealed, and the review board reversed, finding J.M. violated the direction from his supervisor as well as the policy in the handbook. The Court of Appeals then reversed the board.

The justices affirmed the review board. The board found J.M. was discharged for just cause based on I.C. 22-4-15-1(d)(2) – “knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced rule of an employer, including a rule regarding attendance.” The COA found J.M. did not violate (d)(2), but did not consider (d)(5) – “refusing to obey instructions” – because it was not named in the conclusions of law by the review board. Subsection (d)(5) mirrors the policy in the handbook.

The Supreme Court did not agree with the lower appellate court that it could not affirm a just cause finding on a different ground than one cited by the review board. David pointed out that the findings of fact state that the project manager told J.M. that he could miss work, but that policy would not allow him to make up the time. The findings of basic fact are within the scope of the substantial-evidence standard of review, the justices held.

“We may rely on a different statutory ground of a just cause finding than the one relied upon by the Review Board when, as here, the Review Board’s findings of fact clearly establish the alternate subsection’s applicability. As such, we affirm the Review Board under Indiana Code section 22-4-15-1(d)(5), that J.M. refused to obey instructions, and was thus fired for just cause,” he wrote.
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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