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Galey v. Employment Appeal Board

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

ROB M. GALEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert B. Hanson, Judge (remand), and Eliza J. Ovrom, Judge (ruling).

         A fired worker appeals the judicial review order upholding a denial of unemployment benefits. AFFIRMED.

          Billy J. Mallory of Brick Gentry, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Rick Autry, of Employment Appeal Board, Des Moines, for appellees.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A fired worker challenges the denial of unemployment benefits based on the revocation of his driving privileges following an arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI). The worker, Rob Galey, contends "an isolated OWI first offense and anticipated loss of a driver's license" should not be viewed as disqualifying job-related misconduct under Iowa Code section 96.5(2) (2015). Because the bulk of Galey's job as a service technician for the Wapello Rural Water Association required driving a truck from location to location to meet customer needs, the Employment Appeal Board (EAB) identified his failure to maintain a driver's license as misconduct connected to his work. On judicial review, the district court upheld the agency decision.

         In this appeal, Galey raises two issues. First, Galey contends the district court abused its discretion in remanding for additional evidence to be submitted to the agency. Second, he maintains the record does not support the determination he was fired for job-related misconduct and the EAB decision is irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable. Because Galey's subsequent guilty plea and sentence was relevant to the question of misconduct, we find no abuse of discretion in the remand. And because, like the district court, we find substantial evidence supporting the agency's identification of misconduct, and the decision was not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Galey worked as a full-time service technician for the rural water association from 2005 until 2016. As a service technician, he was continually called to drive around the multi-county territory served by the association. A valid driver's license was essential to completing his job duties.

         On February 7, 2016, police arrested Galey for first-offense OWI while he was driving his personal vehicle. Galey notified his supervisor and the association's general manager about the arrest and the possibility Galey would lose his driver's license. On February 10, the association's governing board met and discussed Galey's situation. The board decided if Galey lost his license the association would need to end his employment immediately. The board informed Galey of its decision on February 11. Galey then informed his supervisors on February 15 that he was required to surrender his driver's license that same day. The association followed through with the board's decision and terminated Galey's employment February 15, 2016.

         Galey filed a claim for unemployment benefits but the claim was denied because the Iowa Workforce Development, Claims Section, determined Galey was discharged for misconduct. Galey appealed, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the denial of benefits. The ALJ found (1) Galey was terminated because he no longer held a valid driver's license; (2) Galey was aware his job required him to have a valid license and he would not be able to complete his duties without one; and (3) Galey's failure to maintain his driver's license, as a known condition of his employment, constituted misconduct sufficient to deny unemployment benefits. Galey appealed to the EAB, contending an arrest for OWI first offense and anticipated loss of a driver's license did not constitute misconduct. Galey also claimed the evidence was insufficient to find misconduct because at the time he was discharged he had not yet lost his license-contrary to what he had informed his employer. The EAB unanimously affirmed the ALJ's decision and adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law as its own. Galey then sought judicial review.

         In the district court, Galey contended the EAB's ruling was not supported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency and was irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable. Part of Galey's contention stemmed from apparent miscommunication as to when his license revocation began. Despite telling his employer he could not legally drive as of February 15, Galey later claimed he was not required to surrender his license until February 17. So Galey reasoned the association's decision to terminate his employment could not have been based on his lack of a driver's license.

         Galey also argued no evidence showed he intentionally or deliberately did any of the following: (1) set out to lose his driver's license; (2) acted in a manner that would prevent him from carrying out his job duties; (3) materially breached the duties of his employment; (4) acted in willful or wanton disregard of the employer's interest or in deliberate violation or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of employees; or (5) repeatedly acted in a manner inconsistent with the ...

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