Monday, March 24, 2008

UC - voluntary quit - same-sex couple

Procito v. UCBR - Commonwealth Court - March 17, 2008

The majority held that the claimant, a partner in a same-sex relationship, "failed to meet her burden to prove that she terminated her job for a necessitous and compelling cause....As a consequence,....the Court need not address any constitutional issues that [claimant] raised inasmuch as this case certainly can be decided on non-constitutional grounds." The majority clearly wanted to side-step the issue of whether the follow-the-spouse doctrine could be applied to a same-sex couple.

One concurring judge (Pelligrini) agreed that "there is no evidence that Claimant's domestic situation caused her to leave her employment and relocate....All evidence indicates that her domestic partner be with her son in college because she wanted to, not because they heed to. This is clearly a personal choice and not a domestic reason that constitutes a necessitous and compelling reason to justify the award of benefits.

Another concurring judge (Leavitt) felt that under Wallace v. UCBR, 393 A.2d 43 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1978), the Court was "free to change [the follow-the-spouse] doctrine to include couples that are unmarried, whether by choice or compulsion" but that the General Assembly and not judges should make "the hard policy decisions on eligibility." She believes that Wallace was wrongly decided.

Judge Friedman dissented, noting first that while saying that the follow-the-spouse doctrine did not apply to unmarried couples, the majority actually applied it in this case in finding that the claimant failed to proved good cause in moving to another state to be with her partner. In addition, she would hold there was a "clear violation of Claimant's due process rights" by the referee's refusal to hear evidence about claimant's good cause to leave her job, thus denying her a "full and fair opportunity to be heard on the matter." (emphasis in original). She felt that the "UCBR's failure to apply the 'following spouse doctrine' because Claimant is not married to her domestic partner violates Claimant's equal protection rights," citing Wallace.