Mitchell v. DWS

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Mitchell v. DWS, Case No. 20000723-CA, Filed September 7, 2001 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


Jeffrey M. Mitchell,
Petitioner and Appellant,


Department of Workforce Services,
Workforce Appeals Board; and Link Trucking, Inc.,
Respondents and Appellees.

(Not For Official Publication)
Case No. 20000723-CA

September 7, 2001 2001 UT App 263 -----

Original Proceeding in this Court

Jeffrey M. Mitchell, Taylorsville, Appellant Pro Se
Lorin R. Blauer, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Jackson, Bench, and Thorne.


Mitchell appeals the Workforce Appeals Board's (Board) affirmance of the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) decision requiring him to repay unemployment benefits.

The question presented is whether Mitchell was terminated for "just cause." To establish just cause for a termination, an employer must show: (1) knowledge on the part of the employee as to the conduct the employer expected, (2) unacceptable conduct that was within the employee's power and capacity to control, and (3) employee culpability. See Kehl v. Bd. of Review, 700 P.2d 1129, 1133-34 (Utah 1985); see also Utah Code Admin. P. R994-405-202 (2001) (discussing culpability, knowledge, and control). The ALJ determined that Mitchell was not justified in his outbursts and Mitchell's demand that the workplace be shut down was not practical or reasonable. Further, the ALJ felt that Mitchell's obscene gestures and frequent use of the "f" word were not acceptable means of communication in the workplace and Mitchell should have known that his tirade would result in retaliation by his employer. The ALJ concluded that Mitchell's employer had proved the elements of "just cause"--knowledge, control, and culpability. The ALJ also rejected Mitchell's argument that he was unreasonably provoked. The Board agreed and so do we.

Mitchell was terminated after an altercation with the operations manager, but was reinstated by the company president. However, rather than attempting to salvage his employment relationship, Mitchell further escalated hostilities by verbally attacking the company president. He invaded the president's space, used an obscene gesture, and shouted the "f" word as he had done with the operations manager. Thus, Mitchell gave the company president "just cause" for terminating him.

Because it was reasonable for the Board to conclude that Mitchell possessed the culpability, knowledge, and control necessary for a just cause termination, we affirm the Board's decision.

Norman H. Jackson,
Associate Presiding Judge

Russell W. Bench, Judge

William A. Thorne, Jr., Judge