Written by attorney Randy T. Enochs

What is Boyton Cab Co. v. Neubeck in Unemployment Cases?

Present in nearly every unemployment compensation appeal decision is discussion about Boyton Cab Co. v. Neubeck, 237 Wis. 249, 259-60, 296 N.W. 636 (1941) as it applies to "misconduct." This confuses non-lawyers and claimants and the easiest way to explain why it's put into these decisions by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) is that this is the precedent unemployment ALJ's use to determine whether misconduct occurred as "misconduct" was defined in Boyton Cab. The definition as set forth in Boyton Cab is: [T]he intended meaning of the term "misconduct" ... is limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer's interests as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or the employee's duties and obligations to his employer. On the other hand mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies or ordinary negligence in isolated instances, or good-faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed "misconduct" within the meaning of the statute. Therein lies the confusion as this is a lengthy definition. The determination of whether a claimant engaged in "misconduct" is not an easy determination and the reason why evidentiary hearings are held on the record before ALJs. Although the Boyton Cab standard is framed in terms of intent, the employee's actual state of mind is not the determinative factor. The issue is what a reasonable person would have intended by the conduct. Misconduct is NOT the same as good cause for discharge. Because misconduct cases are fact-intensive and because the standard is what a reasonable person would have intended by the conduct, factors such as frequency, intent, negligence, the employee's knowledge of the conduct's impropriety, and the effect of the conduct on the employer are all relevant, but none is dispositive on their own. Another common misunderstanding or misinterpretation of when an ALJ finds that a claimant was terminated but NOT for misconduct connected to their employment is the implication the unemployment insurance division is suggesting the termination was unlawful or a wrongful termination, which is not the case. The issue in unemployment compensation cases is whether a claimant is eligible for unemployment insurance, not whether the termination itself was unlawful, which is an incredibly important thing to understand. Share on linkedin

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