A Pennsylvania employer challenging an award of unemployment compensation failed to establish willful misconduct based on an alleged code of conduct violation.
For roughly 13 years, the fired employee worked as a food service manager for a drug and alcohol treatment center. The employer regularly assigned residents of the treatment facility to assist in the kitchen without providing the fired employee with background information on the residents.
On a chaotic day, the fired employee was on the phone placing a time sensitive food order when a resident informed the fired employee that the garbage truck urgently needed the fired employee to move her car so that the garbage truck could empty the dumpster. The fired employee was heading to the door to move her car when a resident informed her that he had a driver’s license and could move her car so that she could continue her telephone conversation. The fired employee gave the resident her keys and he moved her car roughly 20 feet to allow the garbage truck access to the dumpster.
It was later revealed that the resident did not have a valid driver’s license. Subsequently, the employer fired the employee and challenged the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review’s award of unemployment to the employee. The employer appealed the award and argued that the fired employee engaged in willful misconduct when she violated the Employer’s code of ethics/code of conduct.
Specifically, the section of the employer’s code of ethics that the employer cited, prohibited unprofessional conduct such as intimae relationships with residents and interactions in which money exchanged hands. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania found that this case did not fall into one of those categories and that to apply the cited rule to an instance where an employee allows a resident to move her car a short distance would stretch the employer’s rule too far.
In sum the court did not find that the employer met its burden of establishing willful misconduct because the employer maintained no rule specifically prohibiting the fired employee’s actions or prohibiting residents from operating a motor vehicle while at the facility.
Colonial House v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 2017 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 913 (Nov. 14, 2017).