Swinging tongue licks worker:  Whether a specific indicent constitutes disqualifying misconduct is a judge's decision

by Larry Clark

This case took place in a meat packing plant.  Cal had just returned from an extended coffee break.  His supervisor reprimanded him in front of the other workers for taking such a long break.  Cal was so embarrassed about being reprimanded in front of his coworkers that he picked up a beef tongue and struck his supervisor on the shoulder as the supervisor turned to leave.  Cal was discharged immediately.

Often, the outcome of such a case will hinge upon the employee's work record.  If Cal had a good record up to the tongue swinging incident, he might be paid benefits.  This is especially true because the supervisor's own tongue was almost as big a problem as the swinging beef tongue; It is usually not advisable for a supervisor to reprimand a worker in front of coworkers.

Actually, you might be surprised by the judge's decision.  The judge decided to disqualify Cal based upon this single incident!  While each judge is different, the fact that the supervisor had confronted Cal in front of his coworkers and the fact that Cal had a satisfactory work record at the time of the final incident could have resulted in Cal being paid benefits.

An isolated incident is often not enough to disqualify a former worker from collecting benefits, especially in those cases where the supervisor's actions may have contributed to the worker's behavior.  The deciding factor in this case was that the judge felt that Cal's actions had amounted to physical assault upon his supervisor (misconduct).  The employer was lucky to win this one!

Larry Clark is a principle member of Employer Advocates LLC, and has been in the unemployment cost control industry for 35 years.

Disclaimer:  The information contained in the examples given on this page is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice.  There are no guarantees that a particular state unemployment adjudicator will rule as others have in the cited examples.  Individuals seeking legal advice concerning the handling of similar matters should consult with their attorney, rather than relying upon the information given.

The purpose of this document is to educate clients and potential clients about unemployment compensation. While some effort has been made to address the many differences in laws and procedures in the 53 different jurisdictions (each of the fifty states plus Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands), the primary purpose of this presentation is to review some basic principles shared by many jurisdictions.