Partner Julia E. Braun, on behalf of Gordon & Rees, successfully argued at an appellate hearing, securing the reversal of an award of unemployment benefits to a former employee of the firm's client, a medical aesthetics practice.
The claimant alleged that she had been wrongfully terminated. She applied for and was awarded unemployment benefits after a finding that she was discharged for reasons other than willful misconduct.
Gordon & Rees appealed this decision on behalf of the employer. The firm argued that the claimant (1) voluntarily resigned and therefore was not entitled to benefits and (2) violated a non-compete agreement prohibiting the claimant from competing with the employer or soliciting the employer's clients.
After a two-day hearing, the Appeal Board found that the claimant was rightfully discharged for violating a non-compete agreement when she launched a website for her own business, the same type as her employer, while still employed. They further found that even if the claimant had not signed the non-compete, starting a competing business while employed shows a conscious indifference to the duty owed to the employer. Thus, the Appeal Board found that the claimant was discharged for deliberate misconduct in the course of her employment and is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation. The claimant must repay the benefits she received.