Columbus Light & Water Department v. Mississippi Department of Employment Security, 031919 MSCA, 2017-CC-01598-COA

Docket Nº:2017-CC-01598-COA
Opinion Judge:TINDELL, J.
Party Name:COLUMBUS LIGHT & WATER DEPARTMENT APPELLANT v. MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY APPELLEE
Attorney:ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JEFFREY CARTER SMITH COURTNEY BRADFORD SMITH ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: ALBERT B. WHITE JAMES RANDALL BUSH
Judge Panel:BARNES, C. J, CARLTON AND J WILSON, PJJ, GREENLEE, WESTBROOKS, McDONALD, LAWRENCE, McCARTY AND C WILSON, JJ, CONCUR
Case Date:March 19, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Mississippi
 
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COLUMBUS LIGHT & WATER DEPARTMENT APPELLANT

v.

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY APPELLEE

No. 2017-CC-01598-COA

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 19, 2019

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/14/2017

LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LEE J. HOWARD

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JEFFREY CARTER SMITH COURTNEY BRADFORD SMITH

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: ALBERT B. WHITE JAMES RANDALL BUSH

EN BANC.

TINDELL, J.

¶1. Columbus Light & Water Department (Columbus LW) appeals the judgment of the Lowndes County Circuit Court's affirmation of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security's Board of Review's (Board) opinion that a terminated employee was entitled to unemployment benefits. On appeal, Columbus LW claims the Board's decision was not based on substantial evidence and amounted to an arbitrary and capricious decision. After review, we find no error and affirm the circuit court's judgment.

FACTS

¶2. Teresa Darby (Darby) was employed by Columbus LW beginning in May 2010. Darby worked for Columbus LW as a payroll clerk with the added duty of assisting as a backup teller. Columbus LW terminated Darby's employment on May 5, 2016, for multiple violations, including: dishonesty, insubordination, unauthorized use of company records, and multiple violations of Columbus LW's internet-use policy. The handbook listed the most serious misconduct violations to be: (1) "[e]ngag[ement] in acts of dishonesty of any type," (2) insubordination, and (3) unauthorized possession of or removal of "any [Columbus LW] property or record . . . of any . . . employee."

¶3. On one occasion, a Columbus LW supervisor asked Darby if while working at a teller's desk as a cashier, on April 8, she loaded five days of payroll. Darby twice denied loading the payroll information on that date. Yet, Darby had, in fact, loaded the payroll information. Columbus LW considered her two denials to be examples of dishonesty and insubordination. On another occasion, Darby sent an email from her home to her work address that contained a list of overtime hours for Columbus LW employees. Darby downloaded employee overtime hours, employee identities, social security numbers, salary information, and bank account numbers from a company computer onto a flash or jump drive. Columbus LW required such personal information to be kept in the office. Because this information was downloaded onto Darby's home computer, Columbus LW considered that action to be a violation of company policy regarding company payroll records. Additionally, Columbus LW investigated Darby's internet usage at work and found, among other things: 30 minutes of news, 30 minutes researching Bible quotes, 30 minutes shopping at Walgreens, 15 minutes personal banking, 10 minutes Fitbit, and 10 minutes of Dr. Oz. Columbus LW found that the internet use together with the use of the employee information on a flash drive violated company policy regarding the extent and use of the internet and external devices.

¶4. Columbus LW's comptroller, Mr. Bernsen, testified that Darby was the only payroll clerk and that Darby had been asking for help entering payroll. He testified that she...

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