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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Worker entitled to benefits despite outburst

Call it the “take this job and shove it” defense. In March 2006, when a worker at Brooklyn Center Motors was told by his lot supervisor that the sales supervisor wanted him to pick up litter around the lot, he responded with a very specific (and anatomically challenging) request of his own. The worker, Douglas Williams, was fired for insubordination, and his subsequent claim for unemployment insurance benefits was rejected by the state.

Fifteen months later, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel overturned the decision by Unemployment Insurance Minnesota (UIMN), the state organization that dictates who gets such benefits. The court ruled that because the outburst “constituted a single incident” and didn’t have “a significant adverse impact on the employer,” Williams should receive a relatively rare reversal of a UIMN decision.

We’ve all been tempted to fly off the handle at work, but most of us manage to hold our tongues when we’re stressed out or get what seems like an unreasonable order. So on one hand, it’s a little distressing to see someone get rewarded for losing his temper. On the other hand, it’s hard not to cheer at least a little for someone who told off the boss and got away with it.

Williams is now employed as a courier. If I were his boss, it would be tempting to send him on a frantic cross-metro rush-hour delivery run, just to see how he’d react.

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