Miller v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, PICS Case No. 14-0053 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 9, 2014) Friedman, J. (7 pages)

COMMONWEALTH COURT

The Legal Intelligencer

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

Unemployment Compensation • Employee Benefits • "Willful Misconduct" • Self-Defense

Miller v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, PICS Case No. 14-0053 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 9, 2014) Friedman, J. (7 pages)

Employee acting in self-defense was not engaged in willful misconduct and was entitled to unemployment benefits.

Employer fired Miller and one other employee after the latter started a fight at the workplace and Miller reacted in self-defense.

Miller filed a claim for, and was denied, unemployment benefits.

A referee, and later the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review affirmed, concluding that Miller was discharged for willful misconduct.

Miller appealed, arguing that he did not engage in willful misconduct because he did not initiate the fight and only acted in self-defense. The Commonwealth Court reversed.

Fighting is detrimental to an employer's best interests and, as such, is willful misconduct. However, using reasonable force in self-defense is sometimes justifiable. Miller was furthering employer's interest when his co-worker confronted him. Miller also initially took steps to avoid physical conflict. In response, his co-worker assaulted him and reasonable force in self-defense was justifiable. Where an employee's conduct is justifiable or reasonable under the circumstances, it cannot be considered willful misconduct.