An employee engaged in unsafe horseplay at work. He got warnings, including a final one, but was caught once again on videotape. He was fired, and the case eventually went to court.
Thomas Ayres worked at Wal-Mart. The company has a policy prohibiting “practices that may be inconsistent with ordinary and reasonable common sense safety rules,” such as “horseplay.”
Ayres engaged in an activity he called “surfing” — riding on pieces of cardboard on gravity roller conveyors.
A manager warned Ayres this was against policy. Ayres acknowledged this type of conduct was an “unsafe procedure.”
He was issued warnings several times for rules violations, and eventually received a final warning. A worker at Wal-Mart who violates any policy after a final warning is automatically terminated.
Sometime after receiving that warning, Ayres reported that he had dropped a wooden pallet and injured his toe.
While investigating, Wal-Mart managers viewed a videotape of Ayres’ work area on the day he was injured. On the video, Ayres and several of his co-workers can be seen trying to jump over two stacks of wooden pallets.
Ayres started running toward the pallets from about 20 feet away and then tried to jump over them. He attempted this three or four times and then did a cartwheel off the side of the stack of pallets. This happened about an hour after Ayres injured his foot.
Wal-Mart fired Ayres for engaging in horseplay.
The state determined he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was fired for misconduct.
Ayres appealed, with the case eventually going to a state court. He argued that his actions didn’t amount to employment misconduct.
The court rejected Ayres’ argument. It ruled the horseplay he engaged in did amount to employment misconduct — unemployment benefits denied.
Ayres v. Wal-Mart Associates Inc., Court of Appeals of Minnesota, No. A09-2125, 8/3/10.