For Penis Sketch, Could Wyo. Man Lose Unemployment Benefits?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 02, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Wyoming man's penis sketch may have cost him his unemployment benefits, with his old employer arguing that the penile Picasso isn't owed anything.

David A. Dell was fired by Teton Motors in May 2013 for allegedly handing a business card with a "drawing of a penis on the back" to a female customer in late 2012, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Can Dell be denied unemployment checks over a doodle?

Fired for Sharing 'Sketchy' Business Card

Teton Motors argues that Dell was fired for misconduct, stemming from the alleged penis-business card incident. The employer claims that the offended customer refused to work with Dell six months after the incident, citing the genital-bearing card, reports the News & Guide.

Like a smart ex-employee, after Dell was fired and denied unemployment benefits, he appealed the decision and won. Teton Motors unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Wyoming Unemployment Insurance Commission, and is now taking the case to state court.

Dell is currently receiving unemployment benefits but this new appeal could change that. No party disputes that a sketched phallus appeared on a business card given out by Dell. The dispute is over whether Dell was unaware that the offending card bore the sketch prior to handing it off.

Did Dell Do the Deed?

Blocking unemployment benefits for an employee due to misconduct typically rests on the claim that the misconduct was deliberate or repeated. So being fired for intentionally destroying office property, or even willfully pulling a series of office pranks, would likely be solid grounds to deny unemployment.

Since this was a one-time incident, much of Teton Motor's case rests on the idea that Dell intended to hand the female customer a card with an offensive sketch on the back. An accident or prank pulled by another employee may not convince a court to cut off Dell's unemployment checks.

In many states, the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that a single incident -- like this penis sketch -- amounted to misconduct. For his part, Dell maintains that another employee, who was known to play pranks with Dell's business cards, was the one responsible for the incident, reports News & Guide.

Drawing wangs on anything is a non-starter in most industries, but with such sketchy details, Dell's unemployment checks are unlikely to be cut short.

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