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Tab Evans was a Field Representative at Contract Callers, which performed services for St. Louis area utilities.  On June 18, 2009, Evans was tasked to reconnect electrical service to Ameren UE customers in an apartment building.  Evans tried to access the electrical meter by unlocking a door to the building’s basement with a key.  After experiencing difficulties, Evans used pliers to turn the key, which caused the key to break off in the lock.  Building management asked Evans to remain onsite until a maintenance worker could remove the broken key.  In disgust, Evans was allegedly rude to building management and used profanity.

Due to the foregoing and prior incidents involving Evans improper behavior toward Ameren UE customers, Ameren UE requested that Evans no longer service its calls.  In response, and in combination with two prior customer complaints against Evans, Contract Callers discharged Evans from its employment.  Evans thereafter filed for unemployment benefits, which Contract Callers protested.  Contract Callers claimed that Evans was disqualified from unemployment benefits because he was terminated for willful misconduct after receiving a complaint from the apartment complex management for his inappropriate conduct.

After a hearing, the Division of Employment Security found that Evans was in fact discharged for misconduct.  However, the Division found that Evans was discharged for violating company policy by not notifying a member of management after he broke a client’s key in a lock.  But during the hearing, members of Contract Callers management repeatedly denied that Evans’ failure to contact his supervisor was the basis for his discharge.  Instead, they testified that sole reason for his discharge was his inappropriate conduct toward clients.  Evans appealed, and the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirmed the Division’s determination.  Importantly, the Commission further found that Contract Callers had failed to prove its claim that Evans had behaved inappropriately toward the Ameren UE customer.

Evans appealed the Commission’s decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which ultimately reversed the decision.  Specifically, the court found that the Commission’s finding of misconduct was not supported by competent and substantial evidence.  The court relied upon Section 288.050.2, RSMo., which provides that a claimant is only disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits if he or she “has been discharged for misconduct connected with the claimant’s work.”  In its decision, the Court of Appeals noted that to constitute disqualifying conduct, the behavior at issue must have been the reason for the claimant’s termination.  In Evans’ case, the court stressed, the Contract Callers managers who authorized Evans’ discharge specifically denied that he was fired for violating company policy requiring him to contact his supervisor.  Accordingly, the court held that the Commission’s finding that Evans was discharged for misconduct was “wholly unsupported by the record.”

The court further refused to remand the case back to the Commission for additional factual findings because a remand was unnecessary under the circumstances.  Indeed:

[T[he Commission explicitly found that Contract Callers had failed to satisfy its burden of proving that Evans acted rudely or discourteously toward personnel at the…apartment building.  In these circumstances—where the Commission relied on a ground for termination denied by the employer, and simultaneously rejected the employer’s stated reason for termination—there is no basis to deny Evans’ unemployment compensation benefits, and a remand for further proceedings is unnecessary.

The full decision rendered by the Missouri Court of Appeals in Evans v. Div. of Employment Sec. can be found here.