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Bedford Care Center of Marion, LLC v. Nicholson

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 24, 2017

BEDFORD CARE CENTER OF MARION, LLC APPELLANT
v.
CENITHER NICHOLSON APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/12/2014

         LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. LESTER F. WILLIAMSON JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ROBIN L. ROBERTS.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CENITHER NICHOLSON (PRO SE).

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. 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 judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         ¶2. 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.[1] 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.

         ¶3. 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."

         ¶4. 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."

         ¶5. 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.

         ¶6. 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.

         ¶7. Nicholson then appealed the Board's affirmance of the ALJ to the Circuit Court of Lauderdale County. The circuit court, sitting as an ...


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