As a general rule, an employee who voluntarily terminates his/her position is ineligible for benefits unless the employee quits for good cause attributable to the employer. A voluntary termination can include a situation in which the employer discharges the employee. For instance, this can occur when an employer requests that an employee sign an acknowledgment of a written warning and the employee refuses to sign the document resulting in his/her termination. The employee's refusal can be seen as a voluntary termination. This was the exact scenario presented in Kierstad v. LIRC, 2011AP938 (April 3, 2012).
However, the court noted that not all employee refusals to sign disciplinary forms will be considered voluntary terminations. For instance, if an employee believes that he/she is being asked to sign an admission of wrongdoing, refuses to sign the document and is then terminated, this scenario is likely to be considered termination and/or a quit for good cause attributable to the employer. The reason is that it would be "unreasonable to penalize employees who mistakenly believe they are being compelled to incriminate themselves." However, because Kierstad was clearly informed that he was not signing an admission of wrongdoing and still refused to sign the document, he voluntarily terminated his position with his employer.
What does this all mean for Wisconsin employees?
If you are presented with a disciplinary document think before you sign and/or refuse to sign. Analyze the document: Is your employer requiring you to sign the document? Will you be terminated if you don't sign? Is there a place on the document to refute the allegations? Does the document explicitly state that signing the document acknowledges misconduct/wrongdoing? Refusing to sign a document that your employer states must be signed to continue your employment may result in loss of eligibility for unemployment benefits if the employer is not asking for an admission of wrongdoing.
For more information, contact the experienced employment attorneys at Heins Law Office at http://www.heinslawoffice.com/Practice-Areas/Wrongful-Discharge.shtml