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Tesla Industries, Inc. v. Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board

Superior Court of Delaware

August 21, 2019


          Date Submitted: May 1, 2019

          Upon Appellant's Appeal of the Decision from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board

          Scott L. Silar, Esquire, Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP, Wilmington, Delaware, Counsel for Appellant.

          Daniel C. Mulveny, Esquire, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Deputy Attorney General.



         This is an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ("UIAB" or "Board"). Appellant-Employer, Tesla Industries, Inc., is seeking a review of the decision by the Board that it lacked just cause to terminate Claimant Dawoen Wilson. Having reviewed Appellant's submissions and the record below, the Court concludes that the Board's decision must be AFFIRMED.


         Procedural History

         From April 24, 2017 to May 30, 2018, Claimant worked full-time for Appellant as a shipping and receiving assistant. Appellant is a government contractor. On September 5, 2017, Claimant received a written warning for leaving a package on the loading dock. Claimant received a second written warning on February 13, 2018 for calling in after his shift had begun to inform Appellant that he would be late. Thereafter, on May 16, 2018, Claimant received a final written warning for failing to ship a charging cord with a customer's equipment. The final warning provided notice to Claimant that any further mistakes in shipping would result in his discharge. Less than a week later, Claimant was terminated for allegedly shipping a unit on May 21, 2018 that did not match the customer's order.

         Claimant filed for unemployment benefits shortly after he was fired. The Claims Deputy approved his claim after determining that Appellant discharged Claimant without just cause.[1] Appellant timely appealed on the basis that there was just cause to discharge Claimant and therefore he is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits. After a hearing on the issue, the Appeals Referee affirmed the Claims Deputy's decision, finding that "since Employer did not provide written evidence that the mistake was made after the issuance of the final warning, the tribunal cannot conclude that the Claimant engaged in willful or wanton misconduct."[2] Appellant appealed the Appeals Referee's decision to the UIAB and, after another hearing on the matter, the Board affirmed. Appellant now appeals the Board's decision to this Court.[3]

         The Board's Hearing

         At the hearing, Kevin Roberts, the shipping manager at the time of the incident, and Jessica Roberts, an inside sales customer service manager, testified on Appellant's behalf. Ms. Roberts testified that when Appellant receives a customer's order, it is assigned an order number for purposes of internal tracking and billing and then a "work order" is created. A work order identifies details of the order including the date the order was received, the model number for the requested unit and any associated cables, as well as the respective quantities of those items.[4] A work order also functions to identify which orders are scheduled to be shipped that day.[5] A copy of each work order is provided to the shipping and receiving department.[6] Claimant was responsible for fulfilling each work order.

         Mr. Roberts testified that the assembly process for each unit is tracked, initialed, and dated "in-process unit build sheet" ("build sheet") at every step.[7] The final step before the unit is transferred to the shipping department is the "QC tests." The QC test entails a final inspection of the unit to ensure it adheres to the customer's order.[8] Once completed, the QC test on the build sheet is signed and dated before the unit is boxed and shipped.[9] According to Mr. Roberts' testimony, no unit can be shipped or boxed until it receives a final inspection.[10] Ms. Roberts reiterated that before any unit is shipped or boxed, it must have undergone a final inspection.[11] To fulfill a work order, Claimant was required to visit the QC area and write down the serial number for the listed unit(s).[12] After recording the serial number, Claimant was then responsible for providing the serial number to Ms. Roberts, which she then records on the order's invoice.[13]

         Ms. Roberts reviewed the build sheet for the May 21 order and testified that the build sheet reveals the order received a final inspection on May 21, 2018, which also indicates the date the order was eligible to be boxed and shipped.[14] Immediately below that, next to "Packing/Shipping," is another signature dated with the same date.[15] Mr. Roberts testified that Claimant was the only individual working in the shipping department on May 21.[16] Ms. Roberts testified that though the serial number Claimant provided to her for the order in question was the correct serial number for that particular work order, Claimant selected the wrong unit for shipment.[17]

         The Board's Written Decision

         In its decision that became final on September 29, 2018, the Board noted that it considered the evidence presented during the hearing "[i]n addition to the evidence presented to the Referee, the Referee's Decision, and Employer's Notice of Appeal."[18] In affirming the Referee's decision, the Board observed:

Employer has not met its burden to show there was just cause to terminate Claimant for making a mistake on May 21. At the hearing, while they alleged he did it, none of Employer's witnesses actually saw Claimant select the incorrect unit. The Board finds this evidence insufficient to show Claimant made the alleged mistake in selecting the wrong unit.
The Board also believes Claimant's testimony that Employer's shipping procedures leave a lot of room for error. This testimony is supported by the admitted lack of adequate controls to ensure the correct product was selected at the outset before it is shipped.
Based on these findings, the Board concludes that Employer failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that there [sic] Claimant selected the wrong unit that was shipping on May 21. Employer lacked just cause to terminate Claimant for the May 21 misshipment incident.[19]

         Appellant's Assertions

         Appellant argues that the Board's decision is a clear error of the law and is not supported by the evidence of the record. According to Appellant, the evidence that the order was boxed no earlier than May 21 as established by the QC check on May 21, the company invoice with a shipment date of May 21, and the Fed Ex freight bill dated for the same day demonstrates that the Board committed legal error when it held Appellant failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence Claimant was responsible for the May 21 shipping error.[20] Appellant claims that rather than considering its documents and witnesses' testimonies proving that the only date the wrong shipment could have occurred was May 21, 2018, the ...

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