In Mississippi, a person's receipt of unemployment
compensation is based on the reason(s) that their prior employment
ended. Typically, the Mississippi Department of Employment
Security will deny unemployment compensation when the person was
terminated for cause, such as insubordination. The
Mississippi Court of Appeals' recent decision in Gammage v.
Mississippi Department of Employment Security, No.
2012-CC-00523-COA (Miss. Ct. App. May 28, 2013) illustrates that
not all insubordinate behavior by employees will result in the
denial of unemployment compensation benefits under Mississippi
In Gammage, an employee assigned to the laundry of a
hospital complained to her supervisor that a co-employee "had
written a negative letter about her." The supervisor
requested that the complaining employee come to the hospital to
discuss the matter. The employee, who was at home on her day
off, said that "she did not want to come to the hospital,
because she had just washed her hair, and it was cold
outside." A follow-up telephone conversation with the
complaining employee, in which she was again urged to come to the
hospital to discuss the matter, resulted in several heated
exchanges and, ultimately, the termination of the complaining
The Court of Appeals held that the employee was not guilty of
misconduct serious enough to deny unemployment benefits because the
employer had not met its burden of proving "by substantial,
clear and convincing evidence that the discharged employee's
actions amounted to disqualifying misconduct." Two
reasons were given for that decision.
First, the Court of Appeals noted that the hospital's
employee handbook classified insubordination as a violation of
policy requiring two incidents of insubordination before the
employee would be dismissed. Second, the Court of Appeals
held that the employee's "alleged behavior at most
amounted to a single incident of disrespect."
No doubt, the employer in Gammage would have been
better off if management had reviewed the policies set forth in the
employee handbook before firing the employee. More
perplexing, however, was the Court of Appeals' willingness to
condone a mere "single incident of
Mississippi employers should be aware of this Mulligan effect on
insubordination cases and take care when disciplining for such
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Companies must train front-line managers to be on the lookout for signs that an employee might need a job accommodation because workers who want help when a medical issue hinders their job performance don't always clearly ask for it.
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