Does Poking a Coworker Constitute Employment Misconduct?

Poking a coworker can potentially constitute employment misconduct and render an employee ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals addressed this question in Potter v. Northern Empire Pizza, Inc., 805 N.W.2d 872 (Minn. Ct. App. 2011).

In Potter, the court emphasized that, while Minnesota law used to recognize an exception for a single “hotheaded” incident, that exception is no longer the law.  Current Minnesota law “does not provide a single-incident exception” for employment misconduct determinations.  The court further held that “angry physical contact between employees constituted employment misconduct regardless of frequency.”  Accordingly, the employee’s single incident of poking another coworker constituted employment misconduct and rendered the employee ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Takeaway:  Employers should not tolerate violence in the workplace.  Even a single incident that does not result in any harm may be grounds for termination and may constitute employment misconduct under Minnesota law.

About Michael Miller

Michael is a Chambers-rated attorney in Briggs and Morgan's Employment, Benefits, and Labor group and is head of the firm’s Employment Law Counseling and Compliance practice group. He has 25 years experience counseling employers to prevent unwanted litigation and advises companies of ongoing changes in federal, state and local employment law. Michael advises employers in all areas of employment law including discipline and discharge, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, affirmative action plans, background checking, and drug/alcohol testing. For Michael's full bio, click here.

Posted on June 27, 2012, in Performance and Discipline, Terminations, Unemployment Insurance Benefits and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Comments are closed.