South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Employee Who Loses Job Because in Jail May Receive Unemployment Compensation

Minnesota high court held that an employee who was fired because she did not come to work because she was in jail could receive unemployment benefits. The employer refused to cooperate with the work-release program that would have allowed the employee to report to work, so there was no employment misconduct.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Unemployment Compensation, Eligibility, Misconduct

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Jenkins had worked for her employer for over three years when she assaulted a nurse while being treated for a broken ankle. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail with work-release privileges. She claimed that she discussed this with her supervisor at work, but the supervisor did not call the authorities to confirm participation in the work-release program. The employer did not cooperate and fired Jenkins during her jail time. She filed for unemployment compensation but was denied benefits because she had been discharged by her employer for misconduct. That decision was affirmed up to the high court of Minnesota, which took her appeal.


Reversed. Jenkins' absenteeism due to incarceration did not constitute misconduct that showed a violation of standards of behavior an employer has a right to reasonably expect, so as to leave her ineligible for unemployment benefits. The employer was told of the situation and that she could report to work on work-release, but the employer did not cooperate, which meant that Jenkins had to be incarcerated instead of being able to report to work. She made a good-faith effort to be at work; the employer did not allow it to happen.


Jenkins v. American Express Financial Corp., 721 N.W.2d 286 (Sup. Ct., Minn., 2006)

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