Chicatell v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act
A worker does not engage in "willful misconduct" when he departs early, after he receives a call that indicates that a member of his family requires his help and could have experienced a medical emergency. On April 29, 2011, the plaintiff, Gary Chicatell, allegedly received a call from his mother, and he was uncertain whether she was merely extremely distraught or had suffered a stroke. Chicatell testified that his mother was ranting, talking irrationally and not making any sense, which was very much out of character for his mother. Although Chicatell, who worked at Securitas Security Services, had been scheduled to work until 8 p.m., he departed early, at 7:15 p.m., to visit his mother, without obtaining the permission of his supervisor. The administrator of the Unemployment Compensation Act found that Chicatell engaged in "willful misconduct" and denied Chicatell's request for unemployment benefits. The appeals referee affirmed. The Employment Security Board of Review wrote, "The claimant has not established that the phone call constituted an emergency. . . . [W]e conclude that the claimant was discharged for deliberate misconduct." Chicatell appealed to the Superior Court, which disagreed with the Board of Review's conclusion that there was no emergency. Chicatell's testimony that he was convinced that his mother required his help and could have suffered a stroke was not contradicted. The board's decision that Chicatell engaged in "willful misconduct" and that there was no family emergency was arbitrary and unreasonable, and the court reversed.