In August 2011, we blogged about the amendments to the unemployment compensation statutes, which included a new definition of misconduct (see Florida Employers Get Immediate Unemployment Compensation Relief).  The definition of misconduct is:

A violation of an employer’s rule, unless the claimant can demonstrate that:

  1.  He or she did not know, and could not reasonably know, of the rule’s requirements;
  • The rule is not lawful or not reasonably related to the job environment and performance; or
  • The rule is not fairly of consistently enforced.

On February 5, 2013, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in one of the first cases applying the new definition of misconduct.

In Critical Intervention Srvcs. v. Florida Reemployment Assistance Appeals Comm’n, a former employee of Critical Intervention Services (“CIS”), Winston Edwards, applied for and was granted reemployment assistance benefits (also known as unemployment compensation benefits).  Edwards was a security officer assigned to a Save-A-Lot store from late December 2009 through his termination in November 2011.  Although he was a good officer with no record of discipline, CIS terminated Edwards for violating its rule against pursuing suspected shoplifters beyond a store’s entrance.  A few months before, CIS had posted a new policy that security officers were not permitted to pursue shoplifters past store entrances/exits at Save-A-Lot locations.  Edwards testified that he had no actual knowledge of the policy.  Despite making the factual finding that Edwards was discharged for violating the shoplifting policy, the appeals referee concluded that Edwards had not committed misconduct.  CIS appealed.

The 1st District Court of Appeal said that CIS met its burden to show misconduct.  It said, “[h]ere, there is no dispute that the no-pursuit rule was in place and that Edwards twice went into the Save-A-Lot parking lot to interface with the suspect; CIS therefore carried its burden by submitted evidence of Edward’s rule violation.”  The appellate court concluded that the appeals referee’s decision only considered the first part of the exception to the misconduct definition (that Edwards did not know about the shoplifting policy) and failed to altogether consider the second part of the definition (whether Edwards “could not reasonably” have known about the shoplifting policy).  The decision was remanded for consideration of the latter part of the misconduct definition.