Jim Irving, a former employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District, was fired for falsifying time records on at least four occasions. Irving admitted he did not take his breaks at the locations or at the times specified by his employer, exceeded his allotted break time, and deliberately filled out his time sheets to hide his violations.

Irving filed for unemployment compensation benefits. The Employment Development Department initially granted benefits. However, the Unemployment Appeals Board (“Board”) held an administrative hearing and denied benefits.  The Board found that Irving had been informed when he was hired of the district policy concerning the duration of breaks and where they could be taken. He also signed a written acknowledgement that explained the policy. According to the Board, Irving’s violations were documented by the global positioning system in the trucks he drove for the district. Based on Irving’s admissions and other evidence, the Board concluded that Irving “falsely recording his times and locations for each of the 10 days on the district’s time records.” Consequently, Irving was discharged for “misconduct” that rendered him ineligible for benefits.

Irving appealed the Board’s decision to the Los Angeles Superior Court, and the case was again appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals. Irving attempted to argue on appeal that he was instructed to falsify his time records.  However, the Court of Appeals found that it was “undisputed” that on at least four occasions, Irving “knowingly failed to accurately reflect the excessive breaks on his written time records.” Such knowing misrepresentations constituted “misconduct” within the meaning of Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256.

Dishonesty is specifically described in the regulations as a form of employee “misconduct” that disqualifies an employee for benefits.  t should come as no surprise that “dishonesty” includes, “such acts and statements as lying, theft, making false entries on records, and other actions showing a lack of truthfulness and integrity.”

Irving attempted to argue that, essentially, he acted on the “good faith” belief that he was doing nothing wrong because his supervisors allegedly told him to fill out his time cards a certain way. The Court explained that the issue of “good faith” is based on an objective or “reasonable person” standard, and not the employee’s (or the employer’s) subjective understanding. The Court explained that no reasonable person could have understood that deliberately falsifying time records under the circumstances was acceptable.  Tellingly, Irving’s defense that “everybody else does it” also did not persuade the Court.

Please contact Cary G. Palmer at palmerc@jacksonlewis.com, Jerry J. Deschler at jdeschler@jacksonlewis.com, or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work if you have any questions.