Friday, May 23, 2008

UC - willful misconduct - medical condition - expert testimony

Philadelphia Parking Authority v. UCBR - Commonwealth Cour - May 22, 2008 - UNREPORTED DECISION

Reversing the referee and UCBR, the court held that a claimant who admitted to being habitually late did not establish good cause for this violation of the employer rules with her lay testimony about a medical condition - obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), holding that she needed expert testimony to prove the diagnosis and its effects.

"To meet its burden of proof in establishing willful misconduct as to the violation of a work rule, an employer must establish the existence of the rule, that the employee was aware of the rule and that the rule was violated....Once employer has met its burden, the burden shifts to the claimant to prove that the rule was unreasonable or that there was good cause for violating it."

The employer established the rule and claimant's violation. The court held that claimant did not establish good cause.

The court said that, while it was "sympathetic with Claimant, we cannot neglect the fact that Claimant failed to present expert testimony as to the nature of her mental disorder. Claimant merely testified that she had OCD, which caused her to wash her hands after each of her morning activities and, thus, caused her to be late for work. Expert testimony was needed to provide a proper diagnosis of Claimant’s mental disorder and to explain how the mental disorder affects Claimant’s judgment and behavior. Expert testimony was also necessary to explain how a diagnosis of OCD could cause a person to be habitually late for work involuntarily, i.e., why simply waking earlier would not rectify the problem or why the disorder would cause someone to be one hour late for work one day, but only thirty minutes late for work the following day. As Claimant failed to present sufficient evidence establishing that her OCD condition constituted good cause for violating Employer’s work rule regarding excessive tardiness, the Board erred in concluding that Claimant’s actions did not rise to the level of willful misconduct.