In an earlier blog post, we stated that employers are increasingly challenging employees’ rights to unemployment benefits.  Employers seek to demonstrate that employees should be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for a number of reasons, including for the self-serving purpose of avoiding increases in their unemployment insurance tax rate.  In our last blog entry we discussed “simple misconduct,” which is the first level of disqualification an employer may prove in order to prevent an employee from receiving unemployment benefits.  Today, we discuss the next level of misconduct, which is “gross misconduct.”

 Gross misconduct carries an even greater forfeiture of benefits than simple misconduct.  An employee guilty of gross misconduct will not be eligible for unemployment benefits until the employee finds new employment and earns 25 times his weekly benefit amount.  Gross misconduct is defined as misconduct that is willful, deliberate, or that consists of repeated violations demonstrating a disregard of the employee’s obligations.  This standard is distinct from simple misconduct, which does not have an intent requirement. 

There are no hard and fast rules for determining what constitutes “deliberate and willful” misconduct.  In the case of DLLR v. Muddiman, the Court of Special Appeals held a portrait studio manager at a photo studio committed gross misconduct by repeatedly keeping cash on hand and ignoring the company policy to convert all cash receipts into money orders at the end of the workday.  The takeaway is that even though the employee may not have per se done anything wrong (that is, he was not stealing money or failing to show up for work), he was found to have committed gross misconduct by the mere fact that he was disregarding the employer’s work policies.

However, as discussed in our prior blog on “simple misconduct,” the DLLR Board of Appeals found an employee committed only simple misconduct where the employee regularly violated the employer’s attendance policy in the face of warnings and was repeatedly late due to a need to care for a child who suffered from a mental disability.  See Bush v. Becton Dickinson and Company, 2084-BR-94.

As evidenced the two cases above, the difference between simple and gross misconduct can be a close call, but the financial implications are major.  When your benefits are at stake you need an advocate fighting hard on your behalf. If you are interested in learning more about unemployment benefits, the process, or your rights, please contact our law firm to speak with an attorney.