provides that an individual who is discharged from employment for reasons that are considered to be willful misconduct connected with his/her work, is not eligible to receive benefits. The employer must show that the employee's actions rose to the level of willful misconduct. "Willful misconduct" is considered an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interests, the deliberate violation of rules, the disregard of standards of behavior that an employer can rightfully expect from an employee, or negligence that manifests culpability, wrongful intent, evil design, or intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations. While it is the employer's prerogative to discharge an employee, an employee is not ineligible for UC benefits unless the discharge is due to willful misconduct. Pennsylvania's courts have provided guidance in determining an individual's eligibility in specific situations involving a discharge for willful misconduct. Following are examples of some common discharge situations.
Prior to being discharged for absenteeism or tardiness, the claimant must have been warned about such conduct. In addition, there have been cases where one absence is sufficient to show willful misconduct. The reason for the last occurrence will be taken into consideration in determining if the claimant had a good reason for being tardy or absent. Absenteeism alone may justify a discharge, but without a showing of wanton and willful disregard of the employer's interests, benefits cannot be denied. Generally, if an individual has good cause for missing work, such as being ill or having an ill child, and reports off according to the employer's policy, that individual's conduct does not rise to the level of willful misconduct.
However, there can be factors that may affect the eligibility determination, such as the employer's rule for calling off, the method which the individual used in calling off, the reason for the last incident, the nature of the work, past attendance record and previous warnings for absenteeism or tardiness.
Deliberate violation of an employer's rule that is known to the employee constitutes willful misconduct if the employer's rule is reasonable and the employee's conduct, in violating the rule, was not motivated by good cause. The employer must show the existence of the rule and that the rule was violated. The employer must also show that the claimant was aware, or should have been aware, of the rule. If this is established, the claimant must show that the rule was not reasonable, or that he/she had good cause for violating the rule.
Attitude Toward Employer or Disruptive Influence
Disregard of standards of behavior which an employer can rightfully expect from his/her employee constitutes willful misconduct. However, where a claimant is discharged due to his/her attitude toward the employer or due to being a disruptive influence, the employer must show specific conduct adverse to the employer's interests.
Damage to Equipment or Property
Negligence which manifests culpability, wrongful intent, evil design, or intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations constitutes willful misconduct. Where the negligence results in damage to equipment, damage caused by the worker to equipment or materials is not usually misconduct. The employer must show that the action that caused the damage was willful or due to willful carelessness or show that the claimant would not have damaged the equipment if he/she had used reasonable care of which he/she was capable in order for the action to be willful misconduct.
Unsatisfactory Work Performance
Unsatisfactory work performance is not considered willful misconduct where the claimant is working to the best of his/her ability. However, it is willful misconduct where the employer shows that the claimant was capable of doing the work, but was not performing up to standards despite warnings and admonitions. This is conduct showing an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
The UC Law provides for the denial of benefits for failure to submit (to) and/or pass a drug or alcohol test, provided the test is lawful and not in disagreement with an existing labor agreement. In order to be eligible for UC, the claimant must show that the test was unlawful, violated an existing labor agreement, or was inaccurate.
The information provided on this site does not constitute a determination of eligibility to receive unemployment compensation.