Irving v. Emp't Appeal Bd.

Decision Date03 June 2016
Docket NumberNo. 15–0104.,15–0104.
PartiesSondra IRVING, Appellant, v. EMPLOYMENT APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Alisa Diehl of Iowa Legal Aid, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Rick Autry of Iowa Employment Appeal Board, Des Moines, for appellee.


, Justice.

In this case, an employee was terminated because of absence from work arising out of her incarceration on criminal charges unrelated to the work place. The employee filed for unemployment benefits. The Iowa Employment Appeal Board (EAB) denied the benefits on the grounds that her absence from the workplace was misconduct and should be regarded as a voluntary quit. The employee appealed. The district court affirmed. The employee then appealed to this court. For the reasons expressed below, we reverse.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Sondra Irving was employed as a medical assistant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). She was arrested on November 28, 2013, and incarcerated through December 24, but the charges were ultimately dismissed.

Irving was scheduled to resume work on December 3. At Irving's request, her mother called UIHC every work day between December 2 and December 11 to report that Irving would be absent from work. On December 11, an employee at UIHC told Irving's mother that she did not need to call anymore because Irving had been placed on a leave of absence. Irving's supervisors at UIHC visited her on December 5 and told her they were doing everything they could to make sure she did not lose her job. Irving's supervisors continued to visit on visiting days, and they told her that she had been placed on a leave of absence.

After she was released, Irving attempted to return to work and was told that she was no longer employed. Irving attempted to reapply for her job and was rejected. Irving applied for unemployment insurance benefits on January 16, 2014, under the Iowa Employment Security Law. See Iowa Code ch. 96 (2013). Iowa Workforce Development denied her application in a letter stating, “Our records indicate you voluntarily quit work on 12/20/13, because you were arrested and confined in jail. Your quitting was not caused by your employer.” Irving appealed the decision. The unemployment insurance appeal hearing was held before an administrative law judge.

At the hearing, a representative from UIHC testified that they considered Irving to have quit after failing to report to work for three consecutive days without proper notification and authorization. The representative said they knew she was incarcerated and received calls from Irving's mother but that any leave of absence required specific procedures and prior authorization, which Irving failed to follow or obtain. Further, the representative stated that they applied Irving's accrued vacation time to attempt to cover her absence, but her vacation was exhausted by December 3, 2013.

Irving attempted to introduce evidence about the charges against her and their dismissal at the time of the hearing, but evidence on that topic was rejected as not being relevant to her separation from UIHC. The administrative law judge rejected Irving's application for unemployment insurance benefits because Irving voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to her employer under Iowa Code section 96.5(1)

and Iowa Administrative Code rule 871—24.25(16) (2013). The administrative law judge also noted that even if Irving had proved she did not voluntarily quit, the outcome would be the same because excessive unexcused absences due to incarceration qualify as misconduct.

Irving appealed to the EAB, arguing that she did not voluntarily quit and that her absenteeism was not the result of a matter of personal responsibility and thus did not constitute misconduct. She argued that she attempted to introduce evidence of her innocence of the charges for which she was incarcerated, that this evidence was rejected by the administrative law judge, and that the rejection of the evidence was an error.

The EAB affirmed the administrative law judge, noting that a voluntary quit is based upon an employee's subjective intent but that “the reality of the incarceration and [the employee's] subjective hopes of keeping the job are at odds.” It therefore found Irving to have voluntarily quit. The EAB also found that her absenteeism constituted misconduct because Irving's legal problems were an issue of personal responsibility. The EAB noted that it was accepting evidence of the dismissal of Irving's charges but not a letter she submitted which explained the reason for the dismissal. Finally, the EAB noted that Irving was separated from a second job the same week she was separated from UIHC—evidence about which was not presented before the administrative law judge nor described in EAB's decision—and explained that once Irving requalified for unemployment benefits, the disqualification would be lifted from both discharges. The EAB stated that this observation about Irving's second job played no role in its decision relating to her job at UIHC.

Irving appealed to the district court, which concluded that the EAB properly denied her unemployment compensation benefits on the basis of a voluntary quit resulting from her incarceration. The district court also said that the EAB could have properly found that Irving voluntarily quit because of excessive absences without proper notification or for misconduct because of excessive absences. The district court's decision was filed on December 18, 2014.

Irving filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Irving asserts that her involuntary incarceration cannot be considered a voluntary quit or misconduct under Iowa unemployment insurance law. See Iowa Code § 96.5(1)

. The EAB defends its own decision and the district court on both these issues.

The EAB, however, raises a new issue not raised before the agency or the district court. For the first time on this appeal, the EAB notes that at the time of her incarceration, Irving had two jobs, one with UIHC, and a second job which was not mentioned in the record. The EAB states that Irving lost both jobs as a result of her incarceration. It asserts that Irving's disqualification for benefits as to the second job was based on discharge for misconduct arising out of her failure to report her arrest. It claims that in the matter of the second job, Irving lost before the agency and lost on appeal before the district court in an order entered February 18, 2015, approximately two months after the district court order denying her benefits associated with her discharge from UIHC. The EAB indicates that Irving failed to appeal the decision in the matter of the second job, however, and that as a result, the district court's determination that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits in that case became final.

Now, on appeal of the case involving Irving's termination from UIHC, the EAB raises its new argument. The EAB argues that because Irving did not appeal the adverse decision in the matter of her second job, she is not qualified for benefits in connection with her termination from UIHC. The gist of the EAB's argument is that if an employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits as a result of termination from concurrent part-time employment, the disqualification also applies with respect to eligibility for unemployment benefits from the loss of the other job, regardless of the nature of termination from that position. A shorthand description of this argument is the “spill-over” theory. See Glende v. Comm'r of Econ. Sec., 345 N.W.2d 283, 285 (Minn.Ct.App.1984)

(rejecting the notion that a ‘spill-over’ taint of disqualification” requires blanket disqualification for all concurrent forms of employment). The EAB describes the spill-over argument as a claim that this action is moot.

The EAB recognizes this argument was not raised before the agency or the district court in the matter involving disqualification for unemployment benefits from UIHC. In anticipation of a preservation issue, the EAB frames its spill-over argument as a claim that Irving's current appeal has become moot. The EAB points to the timing of the decisions. The February 18, 2014 decision of the district court in the case of Irving's second job became final only after the district court entered its decision in the present case on December 18, 2014, with a notice of appeal filed on January 16, 2015.

In light of this interesting procedural posture, the EAB argues that Irving will be “disqualified on the same terms no matter how this appeal turns out.” The EAB suggests, therefore, that in this appeal, Irving cannot show prejudice arising from the action of the EAB in her unemployment claim involving UIHC as required by the Iowa Administrative Procedure Act. Iowa Code § 17A.19(8)(a )


In reply to the EAB's new argument, Irving does not raise preservation issues. Instead, she attacks the EAB's position on the merits. She claims that her disqualification based on alleged misconduct from her part-time job should have no bearing on whether she should be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits as to her full-time job. In the alternative, Irving argues that even if the EAB is correct that this action is moot on a spill-over theory, this court should nonetheless address the important substantive issues presented in this appeal.

II. Scope of Review.

“Our review of unemployment benefit cases is governed by the [Iowa] Administrative Procedure Act, Iowa Code chapter 17A.” Dico, Inc. v. Iowa Emp't Appeal Bd., 576 N.W.2d 352, 354 (1998)

. We elaborated on our standard of review in Hawkeye Land Company v. Iowa Utilities Board:

Iowa Code section 17A.19(10)

governs judicial review of an agency ruling. The district court reviews the agency's decision in an appellate capacity. In turn, “[w]e review the district court's decision

to determine whether it correctly applied the law.” “We must apply the standards set forth

To continue reading

Request your trial
16 cases
  • Haley v. Bd. of Review
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • 24 Enero 2020 Fennell based on the 1961 amendment of our UCL. See Fennell, 297 N.J. Super. at 324-25, 688 A.2d 113.In Irving v. Employment Appeal Board, 883 N.W.2d 179, 210 (Iowa 2016), the Supreme Court of Iowa acknowledged its law was different from New Jersey's. It reviewed a rule that provided "an......
  • Service Employees International Union, Local 199 v. Iowa Board of Regents
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 17 Mayo 2019
    ...or specialized, or which does not appear on its face to be technical. See Banilla Games , 919 N.W.2d at 13 ; Irving v. Emp’t Appeal Bd. , 883 N.W.2d 179, 185 (Iowa 2016).For instance, in Renda , we concluded that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission did not have interpretive authority over the ......
  • Carreras v. Iowa Dep't of Transp.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 17 Junio 2022
    ...Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. v. Fitchburg Mut. Ins. , 58 Mass.App.Ct. 818, 793 N.E.2d 1252, 1255 (2003) ); see Irving v. Emp. Appeal Bd. , 883 N.W.2d 179, 193 (Iowa 2016) (adopting the definition of statutory unemployment benefits outlined in Cutty's ). "[R]elated to, linked to, or associated w......
  • Klein v. Iowa Pub. Info. Bd.
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 30 Diciembre 2021
    ...and decided by the agency." Grudle v. Iowa Dep't of Rev. & Fin. , 450 N.W.2d 845, 847 (Iowa 1990) ; see also Irving v. Emp. Appeal Bd. , 883 N.W.2d 179, 186 (Iowa 2016) ("We have repeatedly said in the context of unemployment appeals that we consider only issues raised in the record before ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT