Suspended Milwaukee Corrections Officers Denied Unemployment

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: unemployment.

Milwaukee County v. Labor and Industry Review Commission and Kimberly D. Carrington-Field. WI unemployment

Kimberly D. Carrington-Field was employed by Milwaukee County until 2011 as a correctional officer. On February 1, she was supposed to conduct an inmate check, but didn't do so. At 6:49, her relieving officer found an unresponsive inmate who was pronounced dead of an apparent suicide. The sheriff recommended that Carrington-Field be discharged. She was suspended without pay, and she applied for unemployment benefits. The Department of Workforce Development made an initial determination that she was suspended but not for good cause and was entitled to unemployment benefits. An Administrative Law Judge upheld that determination. The County appealed to the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC), which also upheld the decision.

Ellettra L. Webster was another corrections officer who was also suspended without pay in 2011 for two tardy occurrences. In her case, the Deparment of Workforce Development held that she was suspended for good cause and denied her benefits. The Administrative Law Judge reversed this ruling, and the LIRC agreed that she was entitled to benefits.

The County appealed both cases to Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Circuit Judge William S. Pocan affirmed the LIRC, and held that the suspensions in this case were not disciplinary suspensions, since there had been no adjudication of the underlying charges. The County then appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals reversed. It noted that a common sense reading of the statutes made clear that the two employees had been suspended for work-related conduct, and that there had been good cause for the suspensions. Even though those determinations might ultimately be reversed, it was still true that the reasons for the suspensions were work related.

No. 2013AP1613 (Wis. Ct. App. April 15, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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