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  1. #1
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    Oct 2008
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    Default Denied Unemployment for Allegedly Carrying a Weapon at Work

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: California

    I have been denied unemployment benefits (found "not eligible" by EDD) because I "broke a reasonable employment rule". ....."discharged for misconduct". The nutshell version: I had a 'penknife' or 'multi-tool'(description follows) in my pocket at the time of an altercation with another employee while on the clock. (Employer rules specifically state that no weapons are permissible.) This tool only came out of my pocket when my supervisor arrived (post-confrontation) and asked me if I had a knife- to which I replied honestly and removed it from my pocket to show her. (I should have lied-there's no way anyone could've proved otherwise without a pat-down search-!) She looked at it and scoffed: "Are you serious?" I confirmed and said the only thing I had in my hand(s) at any time was a magnifying glass which I was using to examine my pocket change.

    Tool description: similar to a tiny metal book with only three pages which are attached at one end by a hinge or pivot. To 'view a page' (use a tool) hold the 'cover' with one hand and use the other to pivot one, two, or all three 'pages' (tools) out from the cover. The three tools: a blunt-tipped, single edge blade about 1 1/2" long , a flat screwdriver tip and a nail file. None of the tools 'lock' into place (open or closed). In fact this 'multi-tool' was originally marketed as a 'keychain'-it came with a ball chain (which ran through the pivot/hinge) to which you could add your keys.

    I'm going to appeal the EDD decision: my contention is that this 'tool' does not constitute a 'weapon' as the term is generally understood but it's proving remarkably difficult to find a clear 'legal' definition as California law 'defines' the term in relation my 'tool-thing'. I'm at wits' end, I had applied (and been approved) for unemployment benefits three months prior to my termination but had not submitted any claim forms or collected any benefits (money) because I was still working.......now they're saying 'no'.. I didn't start the fight, the other employee had attempted to get combative a week prior ( I reported that incident at that time). During the final altercation I was struck in the face by the other employee, a provocation I desperately wanted to respond to but did not, despite their further efforts to 'egg me on'.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2008
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    1,112

    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    In the end, it doesn't matter what the legal definition of a weapon is. In the end, it is up to the employer to decide if you had something that they considered to be a weapon.

    You can always appeal that your definition doesn't match theirs, but I think your bigger issue is that you are going to have to admit you got into an "altercation with another employee while on the clock" even if the other employee started it (and it sounds like it's been going on at least a week prior). I can see where it looks like you might have brought the multi-tool to work to deal with these confrontations. And are you sure the misconduct was the weapon and not the altercation itself?

    Why the heck did you " ..applied (and been approved) for unemployment benefits three months prior to my termination but had not submitted any claim forms or collected any benefits (money) because I was still working"? Had you decrease hours? What was your reasoning? In the end, that would have given your employer notice that you applied?

    Unfortunately in altercations, often both parties get the consequences, because it's often hard to tell who started the situation (not just the specific instance)

  3. #3
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    Oct 2008
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    12

    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    Thank you for replying.
    As for why I had applied three months prior: yes, hours had fallen off ....but then they picked back up and collecting benefit was unnecessary. And yes, my employer would have been notified.....
    Re_prior altercation: I was perfectly willing to let it go.....said my piece, done, it was _over_. I'm an adult and at work I try to act accordingly-as a matter of fact I had gone to bat for this person a couple of times when they started their employment there. Which is neither here nor there.....Also, I'm nearly certain that the person I reported to did not, then, pass it further up the line, judging by the usual supervisors' reaction when I brought it up. Again, irrelevant at this point. Yes, I am certain that the misconduct was the weapon and not the altercation itself.
    The arbitration process requires that I submit my appeal together with an explanation as to why I disagree with the EDD decision to deny benefits. The (arbitration) judge bases their decision on facts already gathered together in addition to my appeal statement; he or she isn't going to go back to my employer and ask for further definition from them. If I can submit some documentation or evidence substantiating my contention my chances of a positive outcome would be vastly improved.

    oh, and in MY dictionary the tool in question could not even remotely be considered a 'weapon'- it's a TOOL. Period. One I carry habitually-for opening mail (no fingernails to speak of) and packages (no teeth to tear with). As far as both offense and defense go, the magnifying glass I had been using would be far more useful than that 'tool'.

    So I'll re-phrase the original question (see thread title):

    What is the legal definition of 'weapon' in California? ( please keep in mind that nearly ANYTHING can be USED as a weapon-
    cite a legal statute or something!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
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    2,870

    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    It really doesn't matter what the state's definition of a knife is. If the employer told you you can't have a spoon because they feel it is a weapon and you take spoon you have a weapon and have "broke a reasonable employment rule".

  5. #5
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    Oct 2008
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    12

    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    OK if you MUST go technical on the employers' definition: I work in a trade which REQUIRES the use of -sledgehammers, claw hammers, utility knives, etc., all potentially QUITE deadly tools.. The job I was doing that day was a 'fill-in' type thing-I could have been dispatched to a jobsite -and the terms that allowed me to work that day also technically require that I have my tools, be wearing job-site- suitable attire, etc in order to be ready to go to work at a moments' notice. Obviously this particular rule is not strictly (read:rarely) observed and I don't think it's on the do's/don'ts 'rules' paper I signed....This is NOT going to be the arbitrators' focus, they'll be concentrated on MY arguments as to WHY I think I have a reasonable dispute as regards this specific definition. Splitting hairs on something the original investigation/interview never even mentions is going to get me denied without a hearing. . Like anything else, there's 'the RULES' and then there's the REALITY. Here the reality is that my grounds for contending that nebulous definition and _written_rule would probably not be considered germane to a heretofore unmentioned, (mostly verbal)ignored rule regarding readiness for jobsite work. I'm pretty sure it would be seen as going off on an unrelated tangent. But if I gotta go there because I got tangled up in legalese and can't find a way out....

  6. #6
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    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    Quote Quoting lvs4rock
    View Post
    OK if you MUST go technical on the employers' definition: I work in a trade which REQUIRES the use of -sledgehammers, claw hammers, utility knives, etc., all potentially QUITE deadly tools.. The job I was doing that day was a 'fill-in' type thing-I could have been dispatched to a jobsite -and the terms that allowed me to work that day also technically require that I have my tools, be wearing job-site- suitable attire, etc in order to be ready to go to work at a moments' notice. Obviously this particular rule is not strictly (read:rarely) observed and I don't think it's on the do's/don'ts 'rules' paper I signed....This is NOT going to be the arbitrators' focus, they'll be concentrated on MY arguments as to WHY I think I have a reasonable dispute as regards this specific definition. Splitting hairs on something the original investigation/interview never even mentions is going to get me denied without a hearing. . Like anything else, there's 'the RULES' and then there's the REALITY. Here the reality is that my grounds for contending that nebulous definition and _written_rule would probably not be considered germane to a heretofore unmentioned, (mostly verbal)ignored rule regarding readiness for jobsite work. I'm pretty sure it would be seen as going off on an unrelated tangent. But if I gotta go there because I got tangled up in legalese and can't find a way out....
    None of this matters. As you've been told several times, it's not the legal or dictionary definition of "weapon" that counts here, it's your former employer's definition that counts. And remember, what constitutes a weapon can change, depending on circumstances.*

    *For example, a metal fork could be seen as either a weapon or an eating tool. If you were in your former employer's lunchroom eating food with a metal fork, and your former employer fired you 'cause it deemed that fork to be a weapon, you would probably have been granted UI benefits. But if you were in a physical altercation in a work area with a fork in your back pocket? That fork suddenly starts to look awfully weapon-like...

  7. #7
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    Mar 2012
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    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    Just know that 56% of EDD decisions are overturned on appeal.

    What you submit for the appeal is not some exhaustive legal analysis. It is an appeal REQUEST. "The determination dated mm/dd/yy is wrong. I want an appeal hearing scheduled," is sufficient. You save your words and evidence for the hearing. A lot of UI appeals are in-person. You'll be able to show the ALJ the "knife" to see how threatening it really looks.

    https://www.edd.ca.gov/UIBDG/Misconduct_MC_485.htm

    You'll most likely be working with his section. If the employer's rule is subject to interpretation as to what constitutes a "tool" vs a "weapon," you'll probably win. UI is liberal to grant narrow to deny, and the CA ALJs consistently bend over backwards to award benefits, but that's not true of the EDD workers and why such a huge percentage of denials get reversed. Monkey's flipping a coin to make the decision should only have a 50% reversal rate so that tells you the quality of the decision that you received.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    I also work in a job that has lots of dangerous tools around that could be used as weapons. That said, am I simply holding the hammer during an argument or am I brandishing it as a weapon? How is what your holding perceived by the other party? Is their (or your) perception reasonable?

    I also think your rationalizing about the 'rules' vs. 'reality' is a pile of ungulate feces.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
    "They go up!"

  9. #9
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    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    Are you saying a screwdriver cannot ever be considered to be a weapon? If you do, well, your wrong. Hell, a stick can be a weapon.

    And, if you use a stick as a weapon, it’s a weapon.

    What is curious is if you had not had the tool out of your pocket during the altercation, how lucky was the person investigating the incident when they asked if you had a knife on and you surprise surprise, you did. Why do you think they would ask that if somebody hadn’t reported they had seen you with a weapon in your Hand?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    12

    Default Re: In California What is the Legal Definition of a 'Weapon' As It Relates to Employm

    well, I appreciate so many people taking the time to read and respond. Thank you one and all.

    chyvan: thanks for a considered response. I am curious as to where the number stats came from (I like numbers, what can I say?) I have been to one of these hearings once, years and years ago. Perhaps my experience was anomalous but I was not given a chance to get a word in edgewise....upon my entrance to the room the judge (in essence) told me to sit down and shut up and then gave me a 10 minute soliloquy on her findings in the matter; it was not a conversation by any interpretation.

    I have a meeting to go to so will postpone further comment till I get back late tonight or tomorrow-for some stupid reason I feel the need to defend myself?

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