Refusal To Sign Acknowledgement Of Disciplinary Notice Disqualifies Employee From Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Lozano Smith Client News Brief
October 2012
Number 67

Employees who are terminated for misconduct are generally disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. A recent court of appeal decision held that misconduct for these purposes can include refusing to sign a disciplinary notice after an employer's directive to do so. In Paratransit, Inc. v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 1319, the court of appeal found an employee was not entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits when he refused to follow his employer's demand to sign an acknowledgement of receipt of a disciplinary notice.

In Paratransit, the employee was a union member who was, consistent with the collective bargaining agreement, presented with a disciplinary memorandum to sign, in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement, after the employee was found to have engaged in misconduct. The memorandum itself expressly stated that a signature only acknowledged receipt of the memorandum. The employer directed the employee to sign the notice, but the employee refused to sign because he believed he should not sign anything without a union representative present. The employer thereafter terminated the employee for his insubordination in failing to sign the notice.

After termination, the employee filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. The employee's original claim was denied and he appealed. The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board found the employee made a simple mistake in failing to sign the acknowledgement, and was qualified for benefits. The employer appealed this decision. The trial court found the employee disobeyed a lawful and reasonable directive of the employer, which amounted to misconduct, and disqualified the employee from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The court of appeal agreed. The court of appeal found the employee's recourse, if any, was not for unemployment benefits, but with the union because of the union's incorrect advice to not sign anything without a union representative present.

If you have any questions regarding this case or need assistance with issues related to employee discipline, or unemployment insurance benefits, please feel free to contact one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook, or download our Client News Brief App.
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As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.