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"Dog" defense doesn't work for benefits

By

How many of us used or felt the urge to deploy the old saying “the dog ate my homework” to explain a failure to turn in schoolwork?  It usually didn’t work.

A grown up version of that excuse, “I missed work because of my dog” had just as much futility recently for a discharged employee of a small Chanhassen company seeking unemployment compensation benefits. The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected her claim in Campbell v. POS Plus, Inc, 2013 WL 1707696 (Minn. App. 2013)(unpublished).

The claim was brought by a long-term employee of a company in Chanhassen that sells cash register systems and related devices. She missed a number of days of work due to illness, culminating into four days of absence due to her dog’s illness.

A claim for unemployment benefits was denied by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the agency that oversees the employment compensation system in Minnesota. It ruled that because of her absences, she was ineligible for benefits due to “misconduct.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed that determination and ruled that her multiple absences, in addition to those related to her pet, constituted “a serious violation of standards of behavior” that the employer “had a right to reasonably expect.”  The expectation was “that she would work as scheduled.”  Although the earlier absences due to sickness were legitimate, missing work due to her canine’s afflictions was unacceptable and justified denial of unemployment benefits.

Employees and employers should be aware that:

  • The unemployment compensation laws allow benefits if employees miss work due to their own illness or that of an “immediate family member”;
  • But that does not apply to dogs and other pets;
  • DEED and the Courts will generally disallow benefits for multiple unexcused absences from work.

For more information, Marshall can be reached at 952-460-9241 or mtanick@hjlawfirm.com.