Police Officer Must Payback Benefits

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled in Town of East Bridgewater v. Division of Unemployment Benefits 09-P-97 December 16, 2009 that a former East Bridgewater police officer must payback unemployment benefits he had received.

The court stated “In a nutshell, here the chief ordered a thought-to-be intoxicated police officer to turn in his firearm. It is difficult to imagine a scenario more worthy of immediate acquiescence. Silva had no right whatsoever under these circumstances to disobey that lawful order. [FN2] He intentionally disregarded a lawful order in direct contravention of police rules and regulations, demonstrating ‘deliberate misconduct in wilful disregard of the employing unit’s interest.’  Boston v. Deputy Director of the Div. of Employment & Training, 59 Mass. App. Ct. at 230.

From what we have written, it appears clear that ‘[the board’s] decision affirmatively sets forth subsidiary findings which compel the conclusion that [Silva] was not entitled to unemployment benefits.’ Boston v. Deputy Director of the Div. of Employment & Training, 59 Mass. App. Ct. at 230.”

Commentary

It has been well settled that a police officer believed to be intoxicated may be ordered to turn his firearm over and also take a breathalizer. Refusal to do this can result in disciplinary action. With this in mind, the other portion of the case which outlines the law and unemployment benefits is a good illustration of why Officer Silva was not only not entitled to the benefits, but had to pay back the more than $16,000.00. The short of it is if you want to be able to collect unemployment benefits, don’t bring about your own unemployment.

“The law. This case is governed by G. L. c. 151A, § 25, as amended by St. 1992, c. 26, § 19, which provides that ‘no benefits shall be paid to an individual under this chapter . . . (e) . . . after the individual has left work . . . (2) by discharge shown to the satisfaction of the commissioner by substantial and credible evidence to be attributable to deliberate misconduct in wilful disregard of the employing unit’s interest, or to a knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced rule or policy of the employer.’ See South Cent. Rehabilitative Resources, Inc. v. Commissioner of Employment & Training, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 180, 185 (2002); Gupta v. Deputy Director of the Div. of Employment & Training, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 579, 585 (2004).

‘When a discharged worker seeks [unemployment benefits], the issue before the board is not whether the employer was justified in discharging the claimant but whether the Legislature intended that benefits should be denied in the circumstances.’ Boston v. Deputy Director of the Div. of Employment & Training, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 225, 227 (2003), quoting from Garfield v. Director of the Div. of Employment Security, 377 Mass. 94, 95 (1979). ‘The Legislature’s purpose in enacting this provision [G. L. c. 151A] was ‘to deny benefits to a claimant who has brought about his own unemployment through intentional disregard of standards of behavior which his employer [had] a right to expect.” Id. at 227-228, quoting from Still v. Commissioner of the Dept. of Employment & Training, 423 Mass. 805, 810 (1996).”

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to RSellon@PoliceLegalPromotions.com
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