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Wilmoth v. Connolly Flooring, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware

July 17, 2018

BRANDEN J. WILMOTH, Appellant,
v.
CONNOLLY FLOORING, INC., and UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEAL BOARD Appellees.

          Submitted: June 21, 2018

         On Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board AFFIRMED.

          ORDER

          Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli, Judge.

         This is an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ("Board"). Upon consideration of the facts, arguments, and legal authorities set forth by the parties; statutory and decisional law; and the entire record in this case, the Court hereby finds as follows:

         1. Appellant Branden J. Wilmoth ("Employee") worked at Connolly Flooring, Inc. ("Employer") from April 2016 to November 2017.

         2. Employer has a progressive discipline policy in its handbook. Employee acknowledged receipt of the employee handbook. During his employment, Employee was occasionally disciplined for tardiness and failing to report to work. Employee eventually received a three-day suspension for attendance issues. Following the suspension, Employer's Owner considered Employee to be on his last disciplinary step.

         3. Following the suspension, on or about October 31, 2017, Employee had an altercation with his manager while at work. Employer's Owner overheard Employee and the manager arguing, and approached. The Owner warned Employee to stop arguing twice. When Employee continued speaking after the second warning, the Owner told Employee to "get out of here," and Employee left. Employee was terminated the next day for insubordination.

         4. Employee filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Division of Unemployment. By decision dated November 29, 2017, a Claims Deputy found that Employee was terminated for just cause and disqualified from receiving benefits pursuant to 19 Del. C. § 3314(2) ("Section 3314(2)").

         5. Employee appealed the Claims Deputy's decision to an Appeals Referee. On December 19, 2017, the Appeals Referee reversed the Claims Deputy's decision, concluding that Employer failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Employee was discharged for just cause.

         6. Employer appealed the Appeals Referee's decision to the Board. The Board held a hearing on January 31, 2018, and both parties appeared.

          7. On March 2, 2018, the Board reversed the decision of the Appeals Referee ("Board Decision"). The Board found that Appellant was insubordinate by failing to comply with the Owner's instruction to stop arguing. Accordingly, the Board found that Employer had just cause to terminate Employee, and that Employee was not entitled to unemployment benefits pursuant to Section 3314(2).

         8. Employee filed a timely appeal of the Board Decision to this Court. Employee argues that substantial evidence does not support the Board's conclusion that Employee was terminated for just cause.

         9. This Court reviews the Board Decision for an abuse of discretion.[1]Accordingly, this Court's review is limited to determining whether the Board's findings and conclusions are free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence on the record.[2] Substantial evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable person could accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[3] If the record contains substantial evidence to support the Board's conclusion, the decision will not be disturbed.[4]

         10. Delaware's unemployment statute provides for "the compulsory setting aside of an unemployment reserve to be used for the benefit of persons unemployed through no fault of their own."[5] An employee who is discharged for "just cause" is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.[6] "Just cause" is "a willful or wanton act or pattern of conduct in violation of the employer's interest, the employee's duties, or the employee's expected standard of conduct."[7] In the context of unemployment benefits, the Court has held that "'wilful' [sic] implies actual, specific, or evil intent, while 'wanton' implies needless, malicious or reckless conduct, but does not require actual ...


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