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Bounds v. Mississippi Department of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 20, 2018

SHELLI D. BOUNDS APPELLANT
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY AND SAL-LIZ, INC. APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/05/2017

          RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. STEVE S. RATCLIFF III TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: KYLE BOYD AINSWORTH

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: ALBERT B. WHITE JAMES RANDALL BUSH DON A. MITCHELL

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

          IRVING, P.J.

         ¶ 1. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) affirmed the denial of unemployment benefits following Shelli Bounds's termination from Sal-Liz Inc. Bounds appealed to the Circuit Court of Rankin County, which affirmed MDES's decision. Bounds appeals again, asserting the following issues: (1) whether Sal-Liz proved that she exhibited misconduct by substantial clear and convincing evidence; and (2) whether her alleged behavior constitutes insubordination that rises to the level of misconduct. We find no error; therefore, we affirm. FACTS

         ¶2. On July 26, 2010, Bounds began working at Sal-Liz as a sales clerk. On December 15, 2016, she was terminated. Bounds filed for unemployment benefits. A claims examiner determined that Bounds was terminated for committing misconduct connected with her employment and consequently denied her benefits. Bounds appealed the denial of her claim, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a telephonic hearing on March 14, 2017.

         ¶3. During the hearing, both Bounds and her former supervisor, Judy Alexander-Stamm, testified regarding the events that occurred on the day that Bounds was terminated. Alexander-Stamm testified that she asked Bounds-who was standing nearby reviewing an order book-to assist a customer who had entered the store. Bounds refused. Alexander-Stamm again asked Bounds to assist the customer. Bounds "slammed" the order book down onto the counter. She picked up a clipboard to read the customer's name, then "threw the clipboard across the counter." A little while later, Bounds went to the break room to have her lunch. Alexander-Stamm followed her and said that she needed to talk to Bounds about her behavior in front of the customers. Bounds replied that she was busy and to leave her alone. Alexander-Stamm reasserted that she needed to talk to Bounds, and Bounds again refused. At this point, Alexander-Stamm instructed Bounds to go home. Bounds repeatedly asked Alexander-Stamm if she was firing her until Alexander-Stamm finally stated that she was. Alexander-Stamm testified that Bounds was ultimately discharged "[f]or her behavior and insubordination, [and] lack of following instructions." Alexander-Stamm maintained that she had not initially intended on firing Bounds, but that when Bounds continued to refuse to follow instructions, she had no choice but to fire her.

         ¶4. When asked whether she had ever had problems with Bounds before that date, Alexander-Stamm replied, "We always had a b-ah, she never would um . . . really help the customers. We would always have to go and ask her to help, and . . . sometimes she would just bury herself in the stockroom and just, you know, uh kind of hide to keep from helping customers. It was a[n] ongoing problem." Alexander-Stamm further maintained that while Bounds had "never really had an, an outburst of anger like [that] before," she had previously refused to help customers and refused to follow orders. Alexander-Stamm stated that she had spoken with Bounds about that behavior before.

         ¶5. Bounds testified to a largely similar version of events occurring on December 15, 2016, but maintained that she did not slam the order book down or throw the clipboard across the counter. Bounds admitted that she refused to speak to Alexander-Stamm in the break room; however, she maintained that Alexander-Stamm never confirmed that she was actually firing her. Bounds also asserted that she had never been formally reprimanded prior to this incident. Bounds's sister, Theresa Borne, testified on behalf of Bounds. She agreed that Bounds's action of closing the book "made a loud sound," but she denied that Bounds slammed the clipboard onto the counter.

         ¶6. Following the hearing, the ALJ found that Bounds had exhibited misconduct in that she displayed inappropriate behavior after being instructed to assist a customer, and further displayed inappropriate behavior when Alexander-Stamm tried to speak with her about her behavior. Consequently, the ALJ denied unemployment benefits to Bounds. Bounds appealed to the MDES Board of Review (Board), which adopted the findings of fact and opinion of the ALJ and affirmed her decision. Bounds filed a notice of appeal and petition for review with the Circuit Court of Rankin County, which affirmed the Board's decision. Bounds timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶ 7. "The standard of review in cases where this Court examines the circuit court's judgment affirming the Board's decision is abuse of discretion." Windham v. Miss. Dep'tof Emp't Sec., 207 So.3d 1249, 1251 (ΒΆ8) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). "An agency's findings should not be disturbed unless its order is: (1) not supported by substantial evidence, (2) arbitrary or capricious, (3) beyond the scope ...


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