Honesty is the Best Policy

Directional Signs

May an employer fire an employee for lying about the reason for an absence? In a recent decision, the Connecticut Appellate Court said “yes.”

Orlando Martinez worked for Polar Industries as a machine operator. He was called for jury duty on October 21, 2013.  His employer didn’t grant paid sick days, but did pay employees for jury service (as required by Connecticut law).

Martinez reported to the courthouse, but jury duty was cancelled. Rather than go to work, he went home, because he was not feeling well.  The next day, when Martinez reported to work, his manager asked him about his absence, and he said he had been on jury duty.

Unfortunately for Martinez, the manager knew that jury duty had been cancelled for all prospective jurors scheduled on October 21, so he knew that Martinez was lying. Martinez was discharged for his dishonesty.

Martinez filed for unemployment compensation benefits, which were denied by the referee on the ground that his lie was “deliberate misconduct in wilful disregard of the employer’s interests,” which disqualifies the applicant under the unemployment regulations. He appealed to the Employment Security Board of Review, which affirmed the referee’s decision.  Martinez appealed again, this time to the Superior Court, where the judge examined the record and, among other things, determined that the manager’s testimony – that he knew jury duty had been cancelled because he had looked it up on the judicial branch website – was not credible.  The judge also found a lack of evidence that Polar Industries had a rule requiring an employee to return to work if jury duty was cancelled.  The court overturned the decision of the Board of Review, finding it an “abuse of discretion.”  Thus the case came to the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court first held that the Superior Court had improperly substituted its own conclusions about the evidence for those of the Board. The plaintiff had not filed a motion to correct the Board’s factual findings, and in the absence of such a motion, the Superior Court was bound to accept the facts as found by the Board.  The judge could not make his own determination as to witness credibility.

Turning to the issue of “wilful misconduct,” the Appellate Court found that the record supported the conclusion of the referee and the Board of Review that Martinez knew, when his manager asked him about his absence, that if he said he had been sick, he would not be paid, while if he said he had been on jury duty, he would be paid. By lying, he “deprived his employer of an opportunity to protect its own interest and acted in a manner inconsistent with the standards of behavior reasonably expected by his employer.”  That constituted wilful misconduct under the applicable regulations.  The absence of an employer rule requiring Martinez to return to work didn’t matter; it was the dishonesty that did him in, not the failure to return to work.  (You can read the decision for yourself here.)

Suppose Martinez had been honest when asked about his absence? If he had said “I thought I was going to have jury duty, but it was cancelled, and I went home because I felt sick,” he would not have been paid for the day; but if he had been fired, he wouldn’t have been disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  A single instance of “no show, no call” is not “wilful misconduct” under the regulations.

This was a case where honesty really would have been the best policy.

This blog/web site presents general information only. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice, and you should not consider or rely on it as such. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is not an offer to represent you. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information at this website. Neither our presentation of such information nor your receipt of it creates nor will create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this blog. Any links from another site to the blog are beyond the control of Pullman & Comley, LLC and do not convey their approval, support or any relationship to any site or organization. Any description of a result obtained for a client in the past is not intended to be, and is not, a guarantee or promise the firm can or will achieve a similar outcome.

Subscribe to Updates

About Our Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Law Blog

Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s Labor, Employment Law and Employee Benefits practice on such workplace topics as labor and employment law, counseling and training, litigation, union issues, as well as employee benefits and ERISA matters.

Other Blogs by Pullman & Comley

Connecticut Health Law Blog

Education Law Notes

For What It May Be Worth

Recent Posts


Jump to Page