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Jennings v. Menasha Packaging Co. LLC

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 26, 2013

Kevin H. Jennings, Relator,
v.
Menasha Packaging Company LLC, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 30126293-3

Peter B. Knapp, André Novack (certified student attorney), St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator)

Mary M.L. O'Brien, Kathleen M. Ghreichi, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Menasha Packaging Company, L.L.C.)

Lee B. Nelson, Colleen Timmer, Christine Hinrichs, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent department)

Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Connolly, Judge.

JOHNSON, Chief Judge

Kevin H. Jennings was employed as a forklift operator for the Menasha Packaging Company, which terminated his employment because he failed to report an incident of property damage. An unemployment law judge determined that Jennings engaged in employment misconduct and, thus, is ineligible for unemployment benefits. We affirm.

FACTS

Jennings was a forklift operator for Menasha from August 1984 until August 2012. During the last two years of his employment, he twice was warned after he caused property damage and raised safety concerns. Each time, Menasha informed Jennings that further violations of company policies could lead to his termination. Menasha terminated Jennings's employment after a third incident in August 2012.

The first incident occurred in March 2011, when Jennings backed into a racking system. He bent the legs of a rack, which required it to be replaced at a cost of $4, 000. Jennings violated Menasha policy by not looking backward while he was backing up and by not reporting the incident to his supervisor. Two other employees, Rene Campos and Jose Avodano, saw Jennings strike the rack and reported it to Lee Benson, Menasha's operations manager. When Benson confronted Jennings about the incident, he stated that he did not recall striking the racking system. Menasha warned Jennings that future incidents could lead to disciplinary action, including termination.

The second incident occurred in February 2012, when Jennings almost struck a fellow employee while operating the forklift in an unsafe manner. Menasha issued Jennings a written warning, which stressed the importance of safety and informed him that further unsafe operation would lead to disciplinary action, including termination.

The third and final incident occurred on August 6, 2012. Jennings was operating a forklift when he struck a stationary conveyor belt with enough force that he moved it 18 inches and sheared the bolts that secured it to the floor. Jennings did not report the incident, which resulted in $2, 000 in damages. Menasha conducted an internal investigation. A maintenance supervisor, Nick Cochrane, disclosed that he witnessed the incident. When he was questioned, Jennings stated that he did not remember hitting the stationary conveyor belt and insisted that he had hit a moveable conveyor belt instead. Jennings was referring to an August 8, 2012 incident in which he struck a moveable conveyor belt but did not cause any damage. In the August 8, 2012 incident, Jennings pushed the conveyor belt back into place with Cochrane's help. Jennings had not previously reported the August 8 incident.

On August 20, 2012, Menasha terminated Jennings' employment because he failed to report the August 6 incident. Menasha did not refer to the August ...


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