No Unemployment Insurance for Willful Misconduct

By Staff Report

Mar. 22, 2011

An employee who insulted his supervisor was guilty of willful misconduct and is not entitled to unemployment insurance, a Connecticut appellate court has ruled in upholding a lower court.

According to the decision in Andre Joseph v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act by the Connecticut Appellate Court in Hartford, Joseph began working in 2007 for Minnesota-based United Healthcare Services Inc., now UnitedHealthcare.

In 2008, the company named Debbie Lee as his accounting supervisor. Lee attempted to train Joseph on reconciling accounts on several occasions, but his work continued to be unsatisfactory, according to the March 22 decision.

When his reconciliations were past due because he was unable to complete his work using the methods Lee had ordered, she again sent him an email in January 2009 explaining the methods she wanted him to use.

The plaintiff replied, “You do not have the technical accounting skills to be a supervisor and that will be your downfall.” When Lee responded that she had 20 years of accounting experience, Joseph wrote that “non value added experience non contemporary.”

Joseph was dismissed the same day the emails were exchanged. A referee upheld the dismissal, stating Joseph’s actions constituted “willful misconduct” and he was not entitled to unemployment insurance.

A lower court ruled that Joseph was not entitled to reconsideration of the Employment Security Division Board of Review’s decision to reject his assertion that he was discharged as a whistle-blower for challenging UnitedHealthcare’s practices and denied him benefits.

The appellate court agreed. “The appeals referee concluded, and the board agreed, that the emails that the plaintiff sent to Lee insulted her personally and undermined her supervisory authority and, therefore, his actions rose to the level of willful misconduct in the course of employment. There is sufficient evidence in the record to support this finding,” the court ruled.  

Filed by Judy Greenwald of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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