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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues two unemployment compensation decisions late this afternoon

In John D. Giovanoni, II v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, a 9-page, 2-opinion decision, Justice Sullivan writes:

Indiana‟s Unemployment Compensation Act provides “benefits to persons unemployed through no fault of their own. . . .” Ind. Code § 22-4-1-1. In this case, an employer‟s attendance policy subjected an employee to discharge for exceeding the permitted number of absences, whether excused or unexcused. Under the Act as written at the time of the employee‟s dis-charge, violation of the attendance policy did not disqualify the employee from unemployment compensation because the employee had been discharged through no fault of his own. * * *

The effect of denying Giovanoni benefits for violating Clarian‟s no-fault attendance policy, where all of his absences were beyond his control, is to deny benefits to an employee who became unemployed through no fault of his own. It is permissible for an employer to utilize a “no-fault” attendance policy and such policy may form an appropriate basis for discharge from employment. But when determining eligibility for unemployment benefits, the existence of such a policy does not obviate the statutory mandate to analyze whether, under the totality of the circumstances, an employee‟s absenteeism is the result of circumstances beyond that employee‟s control. Such an analysis effectuates the mandate of the Act “to provide for payment of benefits to persons unemployed through no fault of their own.”

Conclusion. The decision of the Unemployment Review Board is reversed.

Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., concurs with a separate opinion in which Shepard, C.J., joins. [it begins] I agree that, under the statutory provisions existing at the time of Giovanoni's termination, he was not discharged for good cause and thus was entitled to unemployment benefits. I am concerned, however, that some readers may mistakenly apply the reasoning employed today to invalidate recent changes to the applicable statute. Today's analysis works for the prior statute, but not necessarily for the current revised statute.

In Lisa M. Beckingham v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, a 5-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
The Review Board of the Department of Workforce Development denied Lisa M. Beck-ingham unemployment benefits for violating her employer’s no-fault attendance rule. In accordance with another case we decide today, Giovanoni v. Rev. Bd. of Ind. Dep’t of Workforce Dev., – N.E.2d –, No. 93S02-0907-EX-311, slip op. (Ind. June 01, 2010), we hold that such a rule does not obviate the statutory mandate to analyze whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the employee’s absenteeism is the result of circumstances beyond that employee’s control. * * *

We decide the same here.

However, whether Beckingham’s occurrences were the result of circumstances beyond her control seems less clear than the situation presented in Giovanoni. Because the Board specifically addressed the reasons for some, but not all, of Beckingham’s occurrences, we reverse and remand the decision of the Board for additional fact-finding.

Conclusion. Accordingly, the judgment of the Unemployment Review Board is reversed, and this case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.

Shepard, C.J., and Boehm, J., and Rucker, J., concur.
Dickson, J., dissents with separate opinion. [which reads in full] On the facts of this case, I believe that the Court of Appeals was correct to affirm the Review Board's determination that Beckingham was discharged for just cause and therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits. Beckingham v. Rev. Bd. of Ind. Dep’t of Workforce Dev., 903 N.E.2d 477 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 1, 2010 06:07 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions