This article examines the use of the doctrine of collateral estoppel to preclude litigation of statutory and common law actions challenging employee discharge based on determinations in unemployment compensation proceedings. First, the article reviews the history of the doctrine of collateral estoppel and examines the policies underlying its application. Next, the article reviews unemployment compensation law and analyzes the cases that have considered whether unemployment compensation determinations have preclusive effect in later litigation. After examining the existing law, the article engages in a comparative analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of according preclusive effect to unemployment compensation determinations, in light of the policies underlying both collateral estoppel and unemployment compensation. This article concludes that application of the collateral estoppel doctrine serves few of the beneficial purposes that underlie the doctrine and has an adverse impact on the policies that motivated enactment and design of unemployment compensation laws. The article urges passage of federal legislation that would require states to deny preclusive effect to unemployment compensation decisions.

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Publication Date

Summer 1992