Mitchell improper attire, name calling, and other

Mitchell v. Lovington Good Samaritan Center, Inc. , 555 P. 2d 696 (1976).

Facts: The appellee was terminated from the Lovington Good Samaritan Center, Inc. on June 4, 1974. On June 12, 1974 Mrs. Mitchell applied for unemployment compensation benefits.

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She was initially disqualified from seven weeks of benefits by a deputy of the Unemployment Security Commission. Mrs. Mitchell then filed an appeal, and the Appeal Tribunal reversed the deputy’s decision. Mrs.

Mitchell’s benefits were reinstated on August 28, 1974. On September 13, 1974 the Center appealed the decision made by the Appeal tribunal to the whole Commission.The Commission overruled the Appeal Tribunal and reinstated the seven week disqualification period.

Mrs. Mitchell then applied for and was granted certiorari from the decision of the Commission to the District Court of Bernalillo County. The District Court reversed the Commission’s decision and ordered the benefits to be reinstated. From the judgment of the District Court, the Center appeals. Issue: The issue is whether Mrs.

Mitchell’s actions constituted misconduct under § 59-9-5(b), N. M. S. A. 1953. Rule: The term ‘misconduct’ is not defined in the Unemployment Compensation Law.The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that in a prior case no statutory definition of misconduct existed, and they formulated a definition for such.

The Supreme Court of New Mexico adopts that definition, and hold that Mrs. Mitchell’s acts constituted misconduct. Applying: Mrs. Mitchell’s insubordination, improper attire, name calling, and other conduct evinced a willful disregard of the interests of the Center. Although each separate incident was not sufficient enough to conclude misconduct, when taken in totality Mrs.Mitchell’s conduct sufficiently can be classified as misconduct when under the definition adopted by the court.

Conclusion: The decision of the district court is reversed and the decision of the Commission is reinstated. Rodman v. New Mexico Security Department and Presbyterian Hospital, 764 P. 2d 1316 (1988). Facts: Rodman had been employed by Presbyterian Hospital when on February 17, 1987 she was terminated following a “third corrective action” notice.

At issue is whether the misconduct which warranted the termination rose to the level of misconduct which would warrant the denial of unemployment compensation.Rodman recognizes the “last straw” doctrine, but contends that the district court erred in applying the rule in this case because her infractions on February 15 were the result of third parties over whom she had no control. Rodman contends that she may not be denied unemployment benefits where the “last straw” which led to her termination was not willful or intentional, especially where, under the employer’s policy, she could not have been discharged at all prior to this final incident.Issue: If substantial evidence existed that Rodman’s conduct on February 15, considered in light of the totality of circumstances including her previous history of personal phone calls and unauthorized visitors, showed a willful or wanton disregard for her employee’s interests, then Rodman’s benefits were properly denied. Rule: We believe that termination for a series of incidents which, taken together, may constitute “misconduct” is distinguishable from termination for a single incident following one or more corrective action notices.In the latter event, as here, we hold that the “last straw” must demonstrate a willful or wanton disregard for the employer’s interests for unemployment benefits to be denied. Applying: Although the evidence in this case is amenable to more than one reasonable interpretation, we conclude that there was a substantial basis for the district court to decide that Rodman’s actions on February 15, when considered in light of the restrictions which had been placed upon her and her previous failure to comply with those restrictions, demonstrated a willful disregard for her employer’s interests.Conclusion: Decision of the district court is affirmed; Claimant’s termination demonstrated willful disregard for her employer’s interests, therefore, unemployment compensation is denied.

It’s Burger Time, Inc. v. New Mexico Department of Labor Employment Security Department, Board of Review, and Lucy Apodaca, 769 P. 2d 88 (1989). Facts: Lucy Apodaca was employed with It’s Burger Time, Inc. , and during her time of employment there were no complaints concerning the performance of her work.

Several times Apodaca inquired to the store manager about how the store owner would react if she were to dye her hair purple.Apparently, the manager never did ask him about the matter, and after several weeks Apodaca went ahead and dyed her hair. The owner saw Apodaca’s hair for the first time two days later, and instructed the manager to give her a week whether she wanted to keep her hair color or her job. He stated that he could not wait for this incident to take a toll on his business. Apodaca had signed the company handbook upon being hired which instructed employees of acceptable hygiene and appearance. The handbook did not say anything about hair color.The manager relayed the message to Apodaca who informed him two days later that she had decided to keep her hair color.

She was then terminated and filed for unemployment benefits. The Department initially decided that Apodaca was ineligible for compensation because she had been terminated “for refusing to conform to the standards of personal grooming compatible with the *** work [she was] performing. ” The claims officer concluded that this constituted misconduct. Apodaca appealed to the Appeals Tribunal, which affirmed her denial of benefits. She then appealed the Tribunal’s decision to the Department’s Board of Review.After reviewing the record of the hearing, the Board concluded that the employer failed to show how Apodaca’s hair color affected its business; therefore, her refusal to return her hair to its original color did not rise to the level of “misconduct” required for denial of her benefits. For review of the Board’s decision, the employer filed a writ of certiorari with the Dona Ana County District Court who determined that Burger Time’s request to Apodaca to change her hair color was reasonable and enforceable and Apodaca’s refusal of that request was misconduct.

The court concluded that the Board of Review’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to the law and reversed the decision granting Apodaca her benefits. This appeal followed. Issue: At issue in this case is whether or not an employee who refuses to alter her personal appearance in conformity with the employer’s personal beliefs about acceptable community standards has engaged in misconduct. The employer argues, and the district court apparently agreed, that so long as the request is reasonable and the employee is given adequate time to comply, refusal amounts to “insubordination and misconduct. Rule: Apodaca’s refusal to alter her personal appearance in conformity with the employer’s personal beliefs about acceptable community standards does not make her guilty of engaging in misconduct.

Analysis: There is absolutely no evidence that the color of Apodaca’s hair significantly affected Burger Time’s business. Both the store manager and the store owner testified that they received no customer complaints regarding the color of Apodaca’s hair.Apodaca’s immediate supervisor reported that the only comments she heard were compliments, and that Burger Time’s customers normally registered complaints when they found something amiss. Under these circumstances, the Board of Review could properly decide that Apodaca’s refusal to retint her hair did not rise to the level of misconduct. Conclusion: The decision of the trial court is reversed, and this case is remanded for entry of judgment consistent with the decision of the Board of Review.


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