SW Legal studies in Business

Unemployment Compensation May Be Collected if Dismissed for Drug Use in Off Hours
Description Pennsylvania high court held that for an employee to use drugs at work would be willful misconduct that would allow unemployment compensation benefits to be denied, but such benefits may not be denied to an employee who was fired for drug usage during off hours.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Unemployment Compensation; Eligibility; Illegal Acts
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Burger worked at a nursing home. When her employer learned that she was a regular user of illegal drugs, she was fired. She applied for unemployment compensation and was denied benefits because of her illegal conduct. The matter was eventually appealed to the Pennsylvania high court.
Decision

Reversed. "There is no question Claimant could be fired for her drug use; a responsible nursing home cannot be criticized for this. However . . . an employee may be fired for completely proper reasons, yet remain eligible for benefits." Off-duty misconduct does not support a finding of "willful misconduct" on the job, which by statute would allow benefits to be denied.

Citation Burger v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 801 A.2d 487 (Sup. Ct., Pa., 2002)

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