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Shanna R. Locker v. How Soel

November 1, 2011

SHANNA R. LOCKER, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT,
v.
HOW SOEL, INC., DBA LOGAN'S FOODTOWN, EMPLOYER, AND IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, RESPONDENTS-RESPONDENTS ON APPEAL.



Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice.

2011 Opinion No. 101

Stephen Kenyon, Clerk

The decision of the Industrial Commission is affirmed.

Shanna Locker (Locker) appeals the Industrial Commission's (Commission) finding that she was insubordinate when she failed to provide a medical release at the request of her employer, Logan's Foodtown. The Commission found that this constituted employment-related misconduct which rendered Locker ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Locker was employed by Logan's Foodtown from July 17, 2008 through June 1, 2009. During her interview for employment, Locker informed assistant manager Brian Cruz (Cruz) that she suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS). Logan's Foodtown hired Locker and employed her in a variety of positions, accommodating Locker's MS-related limitations by scheduling her on days that did not involve moving freight and allowing other employees to do heavy lifting or above-the-head reaching on Locker's behalf.

In April 2009, Locker took a six-week long medical leave in order to undergo and recover from a hysterectomy. She returned to work on June 1, 2009. Locker had expressed interest in becoming the deli manager, and she took up that role upon her return. On Locker's first day back to work, she engaged in a conversation with manager Barb Chandler (Chandler), which she characterized as "girl talk." In that conversation, Locker and Chandler spoke about hysterectomies. Locker told Chandler that the surgery had been more difficult than she had expected, that she "still felt weak," and that being on her feet at work had increased the bleeding she was experiencing after the surgery.

On this first day back to work, after two to three hours performing inventory and freight duties, Locker informed Chandler and Cruz that she could not continue to work. Although Locker later testified that balance problems caused by MS were causing her difficulty at work that day, both Cruz and Chandler testified that Locker did not mention her MS when she told them that she needed to leave work. Locker testified that she did not tell Cruz or Chandler that she was in pain, however, the two managers testified to the contrary. According to Chandler, Locker was crying and in visible pain. Chandler informed Greg Jarolimek (Jarolimek), manager and part owner of Logan's Foodtown, that Locker left work because she had not yet healed from the hysterectomy.

Jarolimek testified that when Locker returned to work two days later, he told her he needed "some information from a doctor that would let me know what limitations she might have . . . . Or if she actually needed more time off, you know, something that would give me something that I could work with, you know, to plan for the next two or three weeks, you know, if she took more time." Jarolimek testified that Locker never provided a medical release as requested,*fn1 which "made it hard for me to determine what she could or could not do. . . . [If] you bring me the information, I can determine what we can do, what changes we need to make . . . ."

According to Jarolimek, he told Locker that "if you gave me something from your doctor, you know, so that we can determine what you can do and what you can't do, you know."

Later that week, Locker returned to Logan's Foodtown to check the work schedule. She had an impromptu meeting with Cruz, Chandler, and a third manager. There is conflicting evidence in the record regarding the conversation that day. Cruz testified that he told Locker "I was concerned for her safety and her well being and that . . . I needed a safety note from the doctor or a release note and she fired at me and she said are you firing me and I said, no, I'm not firing you, just concerned for your safety and until I get a note there is nothing I can do." Cruz also testified that "I just talked to her about her safety and well being and how I was under the impression of a doctor's note that I needed, so I could tell what she could and could not do." According to Chandler, however, she heard Cruz tell Locker that Locker "needed to be able to do the job details of a deli manager and that he had to let her go, because she cannot do that work entailed in that - in the lifting." Locker testified that she left the meeting with the clear impression that she was no longer employed by Logan's Foodtown. Locker left work and did not return.

Locker filed for unemployment benefits, and the Idaho Department of Labor found her ineligible for benefits because she had quit without cause. Locker appealed. The appeals examiner affirmed the eligibility determination on alternative grounds, finding that Logan's Foodtown had terminated Locker's employment and that Locker had committed misconduct by failing to produce the requested medical release. Locker appealed the issue to the Industrial Commission and asserted, for the first time, claims arising under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Commission concluded that Locker's FMLA claims were waived as untimely and for lack of evidence that the Act was applicable, adopted the appeals examiner's findings of fact,*fn2 and affirmed the appeals examiner's decision denying Locker's ...


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