Can Unemployment Compensation Be Granted After Being Discharged from Service for Excessive Absenteeism ?

In Tallahassee Housing Auth. v. Florida Unemployment Appeals Comm'n, an employee, Barron, applied for unemployment compensation after his discharge from the Tallahassee Housing Authority. The claims adjudicator found that Barron was discharged for excessive absenteeism, which constituted misconduct connected with work; therefore, he was not entitled to benefits. Subsequently, at an evidentiary hearing before the appeals referee, the Tallahassee Housing Authority presented a three-page summary of Barron's attendance records as proof of his excessive absenteeism. Based on the attendance record reflected in this summary, the referee affirmed the claims adjudicator's finding that Barron was guilty of misconduct and not entitled to unemployment compensation. The Unemployment Appeals Commission reversed, finding that the summary relied on by the referee was inadmissable hearsay. On appeal, the First District rejected the Housing Authority's argument that a showing of continued absenteeism alone is sufficient to justify termination. See Tallahassee Housing Auth. v. Florida Unemployment Appeals Comm'n, 463 So. 2d 1216 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). More specifically, the court wrote: Even accepting the summary as admissible evidence, we affirm the commission's reversal of the appeals referee on the basis of the commission's application of the law to this case. In our view, although excessive absenteeism or tardiness may constitute misconduct which justifies termination of employment and therefore precludes collection of unemployment compensation benefits, Sanchez v. Department of Labor, Etc., 411 So. 2d 313 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982), an employer has the burden under section 443.036(24), Florida Statutes, to show misconduct with a preponderance of proof that the absences were indeed unexcusable and in detriment to the employer's interests. 463 So. 2d at 1218. However, upon review in this Court, we expressly rejected the reasoning of the First District and held: The court reject the reasoning of the district court in the instant case. In our view, excessive unauthorized absenteeism presumptively hampers the operation of a business and is inherently detrimental to an employer. The court hold, therefore, that a finding of misconduct under section 443.036(24) is justified when an employer presents substantial competent evidence of an employee's excessive unauthorized absenteeism. Once excessive unauthorized absenteeism is established, the burden is on the employee to rebut the presumption that his absenteeism can be characterized as "misconduct" within the meaning of the statute. Tallahassee Housing Authority, 483 So. 2d at 414.