When a worker is dismissed, unemployment benefits are usually available for support while searching for a new position. As a former airport security screener has recently learned, however, there are some instances in which a worker cannot collect unemployment benefits.
Lisa Weems used to work for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Newark-Liberty International Airport. Following her July 3, 2009, shift, Weems was scheduled to fly out of the airport on personal business. When her shift ended, Weems grabbed her luggage from her locker and walked through the security checkpoint without presenting her bags to be X-rayed. Weems then boarded her plane, which began to taxi to the runway.
Just minutes after Weems passed through security, supervisors discovered what had happened and ordered the plane back to the gate. Although Weems worked for the TSA, she violated federal policies by passing through security without undergoing proper screening procedures. Because of the potential security risk, TSA agents ordered all of the plane’s passengers to deplane and to go through security a second time. Following the incident, Weems was fired.
Weems filed for unemployment benefits, but she was declared ineligible because she had willfully violated TSA policy. Weems tried to fight this decision by filing an administrative appeal on the basis that she was off duty at the time of her violation and that her alleged “misconduct” was not directly related to her job, but her claim was again denied.
Weems’s case demonstrates that the rules behind unemployment benefits may not always be clear and easy to understand. There are certain instances, such as willful violation of the law, which may prevent a terminated employee from being able to receive unemployment payments. In instances where a worker has been denied access to unemployment benefits and may need to file an appeal, an experienced employment attorney can help the worker evaluate the case and determine whether to pursue further legal action to secure his or her unemployment rights.