FROM THE ARKANSAS BOARD OF REVIEW [NO. 2018-BR-01489]
Randall Teague, pro se appellant.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, JUDGE
Teague appeals from the Arkansas Board of Review's
(Board's) decision denying him unemployment benefits,
finding that Teague was discharged for misconduct in
connection with the work. We hold that the Board's
finding of misconduct is not supported by substantial
evidence; therefore, we reverse and remand.
Board affirmed and adopted the Appeal Tribunal's
decision; therefore, the Appeal Tribunal decision becomes the
decision of the Board for purposes of appellate review.
Law Offices of Craig L. Cook v. Dir., 2013 Ark.App.
741, 431 S.W.3d 337. Board decisions are upheld if they are
supported by substantial evidence. Blanton v. Dir.,
2019 Ark.App. 205. Substantial evidence is such relevant
evidence that reasonable minds might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Id. We view the evidence and
all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the light
most favorable to the Board's findings. Id. Even
if the evidence could support a different decision, our
review is limited to whether the Board could have reasonably
reached its decision based on the evidence presented.
Id. However, our function on appeal is not merely to
rubber-stamp Board decisions. Id. Whether a claimant
undertook an act of misconduct sufficient to prevent the
receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of fact.
Id. In the unemployment-compensation context,
misconduct is defined as (1) disregard of the employer's
interests; (2) violation of the employer's rules; (3)
disregard of the standards of behavior that the employer has
a right to expect of its employees; or (4) disregard of the
employee's duties and obligations to the employer.
Id. To constitute misconduct, however, there must be
the element of intent. Id. Mere inefficiency,
unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the
result of inability or incapacity, inadvertencies, ordinary
negligence in isolated instances, or good-faith errors in
judgment or discretion do not constitute misconduct.
Id. There must be an intentional or deliberate
violation, a willful or wanton disregard, or carelessness or
negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest
wrongful intent or evil design. Id. It is the
employer's burden to establish misconduct by a
preponderance of the evidence. Id.
was a substitute teacher for Subteach from August 2017 until
October 2018. Teague admittedly received a 2016 version of
Subteach's substitute-teacher training manual, which did
not contain a prohibition from interacting with students on
social media. Teague was fired in October 2018 for having
interactions with a male student on Facebook messenger. The
employer's human-resources department informed Teague
that this was in violation of the employer's policy
against such communications. Teague filed a claim for
employer filed an employer-statement form in connection with
Teague's claim, reciting that Teague
"resigned." The employer did not recite on the form
that Teague had violated any company policy or any particular
provision of company policy, nor did it state that Teague was
ever informed of the company policy.
hearing before the Appeal Tribunal, only Teague appeared. The
employer did not appear, although it had sent in four pages
from the "ESS Employee Handbook 2018." Within the
employer's "Social Media Expectations" is a
provision on page twelve that recites: "4. Do not accept
students as friends on personal social networking sites.
Decline any student-initiated friend requests, and do not
initiate any friend requests to students." Teague said
he never received the 2018 ESS employee handbook; he was
hired in 2017 and said that he received only the 2016
substitute-teacher training manual. Teague testified that he
knew the student's mother and was already friends with
this student ("CS") before he was hired. Teague
presented a screenshot of interactions, indicating that they
had been friends dating back to 2016. The messages between
Teague and CS showed Teague asking CS about school and
Appeal Tribunal found that despite Teague's denial of
having ever received the employer's policy on social
media, "it is unreasonable that the employer would have
withheld the social media policy" that "prohibited
text messages and other forms of social media with
students." The Appeal Tribunal found that Teague
"did receive" the policy and concluded that
Teague's actions "were not in the interest of the
employer," constituting misconduct that disqualified
Teague from unemployment benefits.
policy at issue mandated that substitute teachers not
initiate or accept friend requests from students on
social-media platforms. Assuming Teague received the employee
handbook, he did not violate this policy. Teague did not
initiate or accept a friend request from CS during his tenure
as a substitute teacher. Teague had an existing social-media
relationship with CS before being hired as a substitute
teacher. Moreover, Teague was informed that he was fired for
interacting with this student. Interactions, while perhaps
impliedly prohibited, are not explicitly prohibited by this
Teague's interactions constituted a violation of this
company policy, ordinary negligence or good-faith errors in
judgment or discretion do not constitute misconduct.
Blanton, supra. The employee's
violation must be intentional or deliberate, demonstrating a
willful or wanton disregard or carelessness or negligence of
such a degree or recurrence as to manifest wrongful intent or
evil design. Id. The employer bore the burden to
prove "misconduct" as defined in the unemployment
context. Reasonable minds could not have concluded on this
evidence that Teague committed misconduct to the degree
required to disqualify him from unemployment benefits.
Applying the proper standards of appellate review, we hold
that the Board's finding of misconduct is not supported
by substantial evidence.
Whiteaker and ...