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New Wyoming law defines misconduct for unemployment benefits

by Bradley T. Cave

A new law taking effect on July 1 defines “misconduct” in Wyoming’s unemployment benefits statute. The definition outlines the circumstances in which a former employee will be disqualified from unemployment benefits.

Wyoming law already states that an employee will be disqualified from benefits if the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) finds that he was discharged for “misconduct connected with his work.” But the statute didn’t provide a definition of such misconduct.

Several years ago, the Wyoming Supreme Court adopted a definition that required a showing that the employee engaged in an act that indicated a disregard of the employer’s interests or the employee’s commonly accepted duties, obligations, and responsibilities, including carelessness or negligence that revealed willful intent or intentional disregard of the employer’s interests or the employee’s duties and obligations.

Under the court’s definition, violations of company policies or rules could qualify as misconduct if an employee acted intentionally. The court’s definition provided that inefficiency, poor performance due to incapacity or inability, ordinary negligence, and good-faith errors in judgment would not disqualify an employee from benefits.

The new law’s definition of “misconduct connected with work” seems to adopt much of the court’s interpretation. The phrase is now defined as “an act of an employee [that] indicates an intentional disregard of the employer’s interests or the commonly accepted duties, obligations and responsibilities of an employee.” The law excludes from the definition ordinary negligence in isolated instances, good-faith errors in judgment and discretion, and inefficiency or poor performance resulting from inability or incapacity.

For more information on other measures considered by the Wyoming Legislature, see the April issue of Wyoming Employment Law Letter.

Bradley T. Cave is a partner in the Cheyenne, Wyoming, office of Holland & Hart LLP. He can be reached at bcave@hollandhart.com.