The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/07/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN M. MONTGOMERY
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER
¶1. This case comes to this Court on appeal by Lillie B. Halbert from an adverse ruling by the Circuit Court of Lowndes County which reversed the findings of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC) Board of Review which had allowed Halbert to receive unemployment benefits. The lower court held that Halbert had violated the City's established written substance abuse policy because she had been provided statutorily adequate notice to take a random drug test, but that she failed to submit to a urine sample within the three hour time frame required by the written policy. After thorough consideration, we hold that the circuit court was correct to reverse the MESC Board and we therefore affirm.
¶2. Lillie B. Halbert was employed by the City of Columbus as a truck driver in the sanitation department. The City adopted a substance abuse policy in 1992 and amended the policy on August 28, 1995. The policy required random selection drug testing at least once a month. The policy required testing of fifty percent of its employees on an annual basis. A three hour time frame within which to complete the drug test was required by the written policy. The policy further provided that any employee who refuse to consent to a drug test would be subject to immediate termination of employment.
¶3. Linda Moore, the City's personnel manager sent a copy of the amended policy to all newly affected employees by including a copy in their payroll check envelopes on September 8, 1995. The City street department office manager posted the policy in several appropriate and conspicuous places in the Sanitation Department, including the time clock area and the employee bulletin board.
¶4. On December 29, 1995, Halbert was advised that she had been selected for random drug testing in accordance with the City's established written policy. She was provided with written notice and advised that she had three hours within which to complete drug testing. Halbert then requested and was allowed to speak with her attorney. She then requested and was allowed to visit her attorney's office. She returned to work with a letter from her attorney stating that he had advised Halbert not to take the test unless he was provided with a copy of the City's written drug testing policy. Her supervisor, Jim Hall, advised her that she could get a copy of the policy at the personnel department.
¶5. The City claims that Halbert did not submit to and complete drug testing within the prescribed time period of three hours. Halbert claims that Hall told her that she could go home, and she never refused to take the test.
¶6. A due process hearing was conducted on February 6, 1996, and Halbert was discharged due to failure to take the requisite random drug test within the prescribed time frame in violation of the City's Substance Abuse Policy. Halbert filed for unemployment benefits on February 7, 1996. A subsequent MESC investigation presented to the Claims Examiner determined that she had been discharged for misconduct related to her work and was thus disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.
¶7. Halbert appealed to the Appeals Referee and at a hearing on April 2, 1996, the Referee reversed the findings of the Claims Examiner and reinstated Halbert's unemployment benefits.
¶8. The City appealed to the MESC requesting that the Referee's decision should be reversed, that Halbert was not entitled to any benefits, or in the alternative, that a re-hearing should be ordered. The MESC Board remanded to the Referee for the limited purpose of taking the testimony of Jim Hall. During a hearing on June 5, 1996 the Board affirmed the findings of the Referee, holding that Halbert had not refused to take a random drug test and was thus eligible for unemployment benefits.
¶9. The City appealed to the Circuit Court of Lowndes County on July 2, 1996. The court heard the matter on February 21, 1997 and held that the MESC decision was in error, reversed its ...