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Goodwin v. Iowa Employment Appeal Board

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

KIMBERLY GOODWIN, Appellant,
v.
IOWA EMPLOYMENT APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Carla T. Schemmel, Judge.

         An employee appeals the district court's decision affirming the Employment Appeal Board's denial of unemployment benefits.

          Nathaniel R. Boulton of Hedberg & Boulton, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Rick Autry of the Employment Appeal Board, Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          VOGEL, P.J.

         Kimberly Goodwin appeals the district court's ruling on judicial review, which affirmed the Employment Appeal Board's (EAB) decision to deny her unemployment benefits. The denial was based on excessive unexcused absenteeism, which the EAB concluded amounted to misconduct. Goodwin claims that her absences from work were excused as a matter of law and thus, cannot support a finding of misconduct.

         Goodwin had at least three prior instances of absenteeism that were unexcused. She had been warned three times regarding her excessive absenteeism and acknowledged she was on probation at the time of the termination. The final absence was in direct contravention to the warning of the employer. These facts, when applied to the law, satisfy the definition of "excessive unexcused absenteeism" under Iowa Administrative Code rule 871-24.32(7). Because we find the agency's application of law to fact was not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable, we affirm the district court's ruling upholding the agency's decision to deny Goodwin unemployment benefits.

         I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

         Goodwin started her employment with Broadlawns Medical Center on March 4, 2008. She was terminated on May 11, 2011, when she left in the middle of her shift for a thirty-minute smoke break without informing anyone she was leaving and after being denied a request to leave. Goodwin sought unemployment benefits, which were denied following an initial phone interview. Goodwin appealed and presented her case at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). Goodwin's request was again denied. The ALJ filed a decision in which he concluded:

Claimant was discharged on May 11, 2011 by employer because claimant left work for [a] break without authorization. Claimant asked to leave early. Her request was denied because it would leave the department shorthanded. Claimant was upset with her coworker. Claimant asked if she would face discharge if she left. Claimant was told that she would face discharge. Claimant left for a 30-minute smoke break and then came back, notwithstanding the warning. Claimant did not tell anyone that she was leaving for break. Claimant did not leave for the day.
Claimant had a prior tardy and two prior long lunch breaks on her unexcused absence record. Claimant had many absences on her record, but all were properly reported and due to illness.

         After setting out the applicable law, the ALJ concluded:

In this matter, the evidence established that claimant was discharged for an act of misconduct when claimant violated employer's policy concerning absenteeism. ...

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