Amador v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board
677 P.2d 224 (Cal.1984)

Facts:

  • Nelly Amador worked at a hospital as a histotechnician.
    • Histotechnicians prepare tissue samples for microscopic analysis.
  • Doctors asked her on several occasions to perform a procedure known as “grosscutting.”
    • Grosscutting consists of the selection and removal of small tissue samples of approximately one centimeter in breadth from organs or other large (gross) specimens removed by a doctor from a patient.
  • Amador declined to perform grosscutting, explaining that in her view, it exceeded her capabilities as a histotechnician, and such life-and-death matters should be handled by physicians.
    • This view accorded with her experience at Stanford.
  • After the other histotechnician complained about having to do all of the grosscutting work, Amador was warned. However, she continued to refuse and was later discharged.
  • She then filed for unemployment.

History:

  • The claims interviewer awarded benefits.
  • The administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that Amador had committed misconduct by repeatedly and wilfully violating her employer’s orders.
  • Amador appealed to the board, which held that the evidence was sufficient to support the ruling on misconduct.
  • The superior court also denied the petition.

Issue:
Is a worker disqualified from collecting unemployment insurance benefits when she has been discharged for wilfully refusing to perform work which she reasonably and in good faith believed would jeopardize the health of others?

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • The court noted that there’s a duty to construe the code liberally to benefit the unemployed.
  • With that said, although this case involved a discharge for misconduct, the court felt that it was appropriate to compare the law concerning voluntary terminations for good cause:
    • If a claimant’s reasons for refusing work constitute “good cause” sufficient to justify resignation, it follows that they should also justify the less drastic step of refusing a work assignment.
  • Thus, the court held that a worker who has been discharged for willfully refusing to perform work which she reasonablyand in good faith believed would jeopardize the health of others has not committed “misconduct.”