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Nucor Corp. v. South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce

Supreme Court of South Carolina

November 12, 2014

Nucor Corporation, Appellant,
v.
South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce and Kim A. Legette, Respondents

Heard January 7, 2014.

Appeal from The Administrative Law Court. Deborah Brooks Durden, Administrative Law Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-206406.

Nosizi Ralephata and John S. Wilkerson, III, both of Turner, Padget, Graham & Laney, of Charleston, for Appellant.

Nancy Bloodgood and Lucy Clark Sanders, both of Foster Law Firm, LLC, of Daniel Island, and Sandra Bell Grooms and Debra S. Tedeschi, both of Columbia, for Respondents.

JUSTICE KITTREDGE. HEARN, J. concurs. PLEICONES and BEATTY, JJ., concurring in result only. TOAL, C.J., concurring in a separate opinion.

OPINION

Page 559

[410 S.C. 510] KITTREDGE, JUSTICE:

This direct appeal from the Administrative Law Court (ALC) presents a threshold procedural challenge to appealability and substantively, to the awarding of unemployment benefits to an employee terminated for failing a drug test administered by a laboratory that was not properly certified. Because this appeal arises from a final resolution of all issues, we find the matter is appealable. We affirm the ALC.

Page 560

I.

The facts are straightforward. Respondent Kimberly Legette was employed by Appellant Nucor Corporation (Nucor) from August 24, 1998, through April 22, 2010. Nucor terminated Legette's employment on April 22, 2010, after Legette failed a random on-site drug test in violation of Nucor's drug policy. A hair sample collected from Legette by Nucor on April 6, 2010, tested positive for marijuana. Pursuant to Nucor's drug policy, a second hair sample was collected on April 15, 2010, which also tested positive for marijuana. Although Legette obtained an independent drug test on April 15, 2010, which tested negative for drugs, she was fired from her job at Nucor based on the two positive drug test results.

Legette subsequently applied for unemployment benefits. Nucor requested that Legette be denied unemployment benefits, contending she was statutorily ineligible to receive them because she was fired for violating Nucor's drug policy by testing positive for drugs.

[410 S.C. 511] There are various reasons a person may be statutorily ineligible to receive unemployment benefits upon termination from employment, including:

(2)(a) Discharge for misconduct connected with the employment . . . [including] conduct . . . in deliberate violation[] or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee . . . .
(3)(a) Discharge for illegal drug use . . . if the:
(i) company has communicated a policy prohibiting the illegal use of drugs, the violation of which may result in termination; and
(ii) insured worker fails or refuses to provide a specimen pursuant to a request from the employer, or otherwise fails or refuses to cooperate by providing an adulterated specimen; or
(iii) insured worker provides a blood, hair, or urine specimen during a drug test administered on behalf of the employer, which tests positive for illegal drugs ...

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