Carpenter wins benefits despite termination for heated argument
Case name: Wagner v. Southeast Personnel Leasing, 18 FLWCLB 36 (Fla. JCC, Jacksonville 2011).
Ruling: A Florida judge of compensation claims awarded temporary total disability benefits to a carpenter.
What it means:
In Florida, a verbal argument between a worker and employer, where both parties yell at each other, is not willful misconduct preventing entitlement to temporary total disability benefits, especially where the parties have a history of conflicts.
Summary: A carpenter was working for a framing company when he injured his neck. Two weeks later, the carpenter and the company's owner had a heated argument. The owner stated that the carpenter verbally attacked him on a personal level. The carpenter denied that he made a threat. At the end of the argument, the owner terminated the carpenter. The carpenter later called the owner using profanity and threatening to publicly wreck the owner's reputation at the church he attended. The carpenter also left voice messages repeating this threat. Evidence indicated that the owner and the carpenter had a history of conflicts. In awarding temporary total disability benefits, the JCC rejected the employer's argument that no indemnity benefits were owed because the carpenter was terminated for misconduct.
Based on the history and interaction of these two individuals before and after the incident, the JCC determined that this isolated verbal argument was not sufficiently egregious to rise to the level of willful misconduct. Although the threats made by the carpenter to the owner were disturbing, the threats did not factor into the misconduct analysis as the carpenter had already been terminated.
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May 26, 2011
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