Chapter 288 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, commonly known as the “Missouri Employment Security Law,” governs all claims for unemployment benefits.  To be eligible for unemployment benefits under Section 288.040, RSMo., a claimant must, among other things, lose their job through no fault of their own or quit for good cause related to the work or the employer.  If the Missouri Division of Employment Security (“DES”) finds that a claimant has been discharged for misconduct connected with work, that claimant is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Section 288.050.2.

When an employer claims that an employee was discharged for misconduct, the employer bears the burden of proving misconduct by competent and substantial evidence.  Business Centers of Missouri, Inc. v. Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, 743 S.W.2d 588, 589 (Mo. App. E.D. 1988).  “Misconduct” is defined to include:  (1) an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest, (2) a deliberate violation of the employer’s rules, (3) a disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his or her employee, or (4) negligence in such degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.  Section 288.030.1(23).

In analyzing and interpreting the above definition, Missouri courts have concluded that there is a vast distinction between a mere “reason to fire” and “misconduct,” which warrants a forfeiture of unemployment benefits.  Indeed, while “misconduct” is defined rather broadly, courts have held that the definition should be “construed least favorably toward a forfeiture of unemployment benefits.”  Mooneyham v. Barnz B, Inc., et al., No. SD30903 (Mo.App.S.D. July 12, 2011).

With the foregoing in mind, if the claimant or another interested party receives an unfavorable determination from the DES, that party has thirty (30) days to file an appeal from such determination.  Otherwise, the determination of the DES will become final.  Section 288.070.6.  The thirty-day deadline may be extended for good cause, which requires a showing that the party requesting the extension acted in good faith and reasonably under the circumstances.  Section 288.070.10; 8 CSR 10-5.010(2)(C).