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Brooke A. Stark v. Assisted Living Concepts

March 1, 2012

BROOKE A. STARK, CLAIMANT,
v.
ASSISTED LIVING CONCEPTS, INC.,
EMPLOYER-APPELLANT,
AND
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR,
RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho. The order of the Industrial Commission is reversed.

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

2012 Opinion No. 33

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

This is an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Commission holding that an employee's refusal to obey a direct order from a supervisor to answer a question related to the employer's business did not constitute misconduct under the Employment Security Law. We reverse the decision of the Commission.

I. Factual Background.

The material facts in this case are undisputed. From April 21, 2008, through October 29, 2010, Brooke Stark (Claimant) was employed by Assisted Living Concepts, Inc., (Employer) as

the residence director of Sylvan House, one of Employer's assisted living facilities. On October 29, 2010, Claimant was called during work by Employer's Regional Director of Sales to discuss different topics related to the facility where Claimant worked. During that conversation, Claimant asked if he had heard a rumor that Teton House, another assisted living facility operated by Employer, was closing. He responded that he had not.

Later that evening at about 6:30 p.m., Employer's Divisional Director of Human Resources telephoned Claimant at her home. He asked her where she had heard that Teton House was closing. Claimant refused to disclose her source.

About five minutes later, Employer's Chief Executive Officer telephoned Claimant, with the Divisional Director of Human Resources also being on the line. The CEO asked Claimant where she had heard the rumor that Teton House was closing. Claimant stated that she had talked to a number of people. The CEO responded that this was important information and she did not need to know all of the sources. She again asked Claimant who told her that Teton House was closing, and Claimant answered that she did not want to share that information. The CEO again emphasized the importance of that information and stated that they needed to let the people who talked to Claimant know that the facility was not going to close. The CEO then said that she would ask Claimant again and direct her to tell who provided the information that Teton House was closing. Claimant again stated that she would not reveal the information and added that she will "take one for the team." The CEO then suspended her immediately pending an investigation. The Divisional Director later contacted Claimant, and she still refused to disclose the source of her information. Employer's Vice President of Human Resources then investigated the matter and concluded that Claimant had violated the employee handbook by refusing to follow a direct order from a supervisor. On November 2, 2010, Employer then terminated Claimant effective October 29, 2010.

Claimant applied for unemployment benefits, and she was initially determined to be eligible. Employer appealed, and the Appeals Examiner reversed the eligibility determination, finding that Claimant was discharged for misconduct. Claimant the appealed to the Industrial Commission, which conducted a de novo review of the record. It ruled that Claimant's insubordination did not constitute misconduct in connection with employment. It therefore reversed the decision of the Appeals Examiner and held that Claimant was entitled to unemployment benefits. Employer timely appealed to this Court.

II.

Standard of Review.

Our review of decisions of the Industrial Commission is limited to questions of law. Idaho Const. Art. V, ยง 9. Whether the Commission's factual findings are supported by substantial and competent evidence is a question of law, Fife v. Home Depot, Inc., ___ Idaho ___, 260 P.3d 1180, 1184 (2011), as is the application of the facts to ...


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