Unemployment Compensation Service Case Study

Technology in the Workplace

Businesses now run more on computers than paper. To keep pace, employers all over the country have opened e-mail and internet access to their employees.

The Issue 
The employer, a small trucking company, provided access to the Internet to all of its employee computers. A vendor of the employer made a complaint regarding inappropriate e-mail being sent from the accounting manager to their accounts receivable clerk. The employer investigated and determined that an e-mail containing inappropriate language and picture attachments was sent using the employer's computers and networks. When confronted, the accounting manager stated that she was just flirting and that no harm was done. The employer carried out a discharge due to the complaint.

The Claim 
A protest was sent to the state agency by ADP. The protest stated that the claimant was discharged for violation of the employer policy regarding use of technologies. However, the employer could not find the policy statement or proof that the accounting manager had received the policy. The claim determination found the claimant eligible to receive unemployment benefits. ADP filed an appeal on behalf of the employer.

The Hearing
An ADP hearing representative contacted the employer to review the merits of the case. During the discussion, it was finally disclosed to ADP what the specific policy violation was, and a copy of the policy was sent to ADP for review. The employer could not locate proof that the claimant had received the policy. It was deemed that the claimant did know the policy, as she had given a written warning to an employee regarding the same type of policy violation. The policy outlined appropriate business use, limits on personal use, and content that was deemed unacceptable when using employer technologies. The network administrator for the employer was able to print a listing of all dates and times e-mail was sent by the claimant to the complaining party. All e-mails were printed including any attachments for review. The content of the e-mails were explicit in the wording and contained several photos of the claimant in states of undress. At the hearing, the claimant was represented by an attorney. The ADP representative introduced the employer policy along with the printed e-mails, photo attachments, and testimony by the network administrator to show proof that the e-mails were sent by the claimant over the employer networks. The attorney objected to the policy on the grounds that the employer could not show proof the claimant received the policy. In addition, he objected to the photo attachments, stating they were the personal property of the claimant. The ADP representative was able to overcome both objections. The previous warning issued by the claimant to her own employee for the same type of behavior showed she knew the policy. The policy itself provided that any and all content sent over networks owned by the employer became property of the employer.

The Decision
The administrative law judge found in favor of the employer.The decision stated that the claimant was aware of the employer policies and had taken a course of action that was in violation of the employer policy and best interest.

The Final Word 
ADP representatives are available to assist our clients from the claim protest through to the final appeal. In order to have them fully assist you, as an employer, it is important that all information be made available. In this case, the employer may have been able to avoid the time and expense of a hearing had the detailed reason for separation (at the claim protest level) been disclosed earlier.

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