The Minnesota Supreme Court has issued a ruling that rejects a common law “materiality standard” in that state for determining what constitutes employment misconduct.
In the Minnesota case Wilson v. Mortgage Resource Center, Inc. an employee was fired for “employment misconduct.” A term that covers all kinds of sins.
Steven Kerbaugh of Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A. provides all the details in a post over at Minnesota Lawyer.
Wilson involved an employee, Nina Wilson, who represented in her job application with Mortgage Resource Center (“MRC”) that she had obtained a GED. When MRC could not verify that Wilson had a GED, it sent her a letter asking her to submit documentation. Wilson was terminated when she did not respond to the letter while on a medical leave of absence.
Wilson then applied for unemployment benefits. The Department of Employment and Economic Development concluded that Wilson was entitled to benefits because MRC discharged her because of a medical issue. MRC appealed. An unemployment law judge concluded that Wilson was discharged “in large part” because of misrepresentations in her job application and was thus ineligible for benefits.
In Minnesota “employment misconduct” is defined as “any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job that displays clearly: (1) a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee…”
When MRC appealed the unemployment law judge’s decision it was upheld. The Appeals Court said that the employee was entitled to the benefits because the employer failed to prove that they would not have hired Wilson is they had known she did not have a GED.
However in the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the employer saying that under state statute that misrepresentation (in this case lying on a job application) is employee misconduct.