The Massachusetts Unemployment Statute helps people who have lost their job through no fault of their own. Today, Attorney Murphy applauds the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) for two decisions in favor of his pro bono clients, both of which are exceptional in their own right.
First, in Postell v. Jordan’s Furniture, BR-11592, a case involving an employee’s recreational off-duty use of marijuana, subsequent positive drug test and termination of employment, Attorney Murphy successfully appealed the decision of the DUA denying his client unemployment benefits. The original DUA decision in this case stood for the proposition that a claimant is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits despite the fact there was no evidence establishing that off-duty usage impacted job performance. Attorney Murphy argued that this proposition is in error of the unemployment statute because there was no evidence of drug use or impairment in the workplace; thus, his client did not commit deliberate misconduct in willful disregard of the employing unit’s interest or a knowing violation of a reasonable employer policy, under G.L. c. 151A § 25(e)(2). The DUA Appeals Board of Review agreed with Attorney Murphy, and reversed the original determination. For over one year Attorney Murphy aggressively defended his client’s rights, which were vindicated in this case.
In the second pro bono case, Mulcahy v. Arrow Interventional Inc., Docket No. 589633, Attorney Murphy utilized particular “bed-side manner” as his client had been an alcoholic for over 30 years. After admitting that he may not pass an alcohol test, client was fired for suspicion of being drunk on the job. Subsequently, client was denied unemployment benefits by the DUA for willful misconduct of the employing unit’s interest or a knowing violation of a reasonable employer policy. Attorney Murphy elicited testimony from his client which bolstered his credibility such that it became clear for the record that his client suffered from the illness of being an alcoholic. Attorney Murphy argued that Massachusetts law states unemployment benefits shall not be denied where a claimant is a recovering alcoholic. The DUA agreed and reversed its original decision.
These two cases reflect the legislative intent that regardless of the reason an individual is fired, the Unemployment Statute is meant to help people, not penalize them.