OF JUDGMENT: 05/12/2014
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. LESTER F. WILLIAMSON JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ROBIN L. ROBERTS.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CENITHER NICHOLSON (PRO SE).
IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security's Board
of Review (Board) affirmed the denial of unemployment
benefits following Cenither Nicholson's termination from
Bedford Care Center of Marion LLC (Bedford Care). The Circuit
Court of Marion County reversed the denial of benefits,
finding that Nicholson did not, when applying for the Bedford
Care job, intentionally misrepresent whether she had ever
previously filed a workers' compensation claim or been
injured on the job. We affirm the circuit court's
AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW
In 2008, while working as certified nursing assistant (CNA)
at East Mississippi State Hospital (EMSH), Nicholson pulled a
muscle in her back while helping a patient who had fallen
onto the floor. The Hospital paid for Nicholson's
emergency-room visit and she missed two or three days of
work. In September 2012, Bedford Care hired Nicholson as a
CNA. As part of the post-offer hiring process, Nicholson
filled out a questionnaire asking if she had ever been
injured on the job or filed a workers' compensation
claim. She answered no to these questions. Some months later,
a routine audit of personnel files revealed the previous
workers' compensation claim on her behalf related to her
emergency-room visit while employed at EMSH. Nicholson was
terminated from Bedford Care in May 2013 for the sole reason
that she falsified information on her employment application.
Nicholson filed an unemployment claim, which was denied on
the basis that Nicholson was discharged for misconduct
connected with her employment and was therefore disqualified
from receiving benefits. Nicholson appealed the denial of her
claim. An administrative-law judge (ALJ) conducted a
telephonic hearing. At the hearing, concerning the questions
related to whether she had ever filed a workers'
compensation claim, Nicholson testified: "I thought they
was talkin' about like a paycheck, money from
Workman's Comp. I, I didn't know that like when they
send you to the doctor, when you get hurt, that's the
same as Workman's Comp. When you go to the emergency
room. I didn't know that."
She further testified that she understood the question about
whether she had ever been injured on the job to refer to a
serious injury that prevented her from working, and that it
did not occur to her to report the incident of the pulled
back muscle because it did not prevent her from working. She
also testified that it blended in with other memories of her
experience working at EMSH where she worked "on a unit
where they fight a lot and we had to break up a lot of fights
and sometimes you get scratched up or you might get knocked
down or somethin' like that."
The Bedford Care administrator who fired Nicholson testified
that receiving accurate information related to past injuries
was relevant to determining an applicant's physical
ability to perform the job of nursing assistant. The
application and the company's employee-policy handbook
stated that providing false information on the application
was grounds for termination.
The ALJ ultimately determined that Nicholson was disqualified
from receiving benefits, stating "[t]he application
asked four specific questions related to prior injuries and
workers' compensation claims. The claimant responded in
the negative to all[, ] which would indicate a willful or
intentional falsification of information." Nicholson
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Board. The Board
affirmed the decision of the ALJ.
Nicholson then appealed the Board's affirmance of the ALJ
to the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County. The circuit court,
sitting as an ...