Wednesday, April 16, 2008

UC - willful misconduct - theft of employer property - legal entitlement

Mancine v. UCBR - Commonwealth Court - April 15, 2008

The court reversed the UCBR and held that a claimant's use of free drink coupons, alleged to be only for the use of patients and their families, did not constitute willful misconduct. The employer did not satisfy its "burden of proving that Claimant had no legal entitlement to use the coupons."

The court distinguished other employer-property cases, notably

- Gibson v. UCBR, 760 A2d 492, where unlike here, the employer had a written policy prohibiting the removal of any employer property, including scrap and trash

- Temple Univ. v. UCBR, 772 A.2d 416, where the claimant could not overcome the lack of legal entitlement to pay for hours he did not work, in spite of the approval of his supervisor, who suggested that he list the hours on his pay records.

In order to satisfy its "burden to show that a claimant has engaged in willful misconduct by violating a rule against theft, an employer has the burden to establish that a claimant did not have legal entitlement to the subject property."

In this case, the coupons on their face contained no prohibition or limitation on the user or transferability of the coupons. The claimant apparently got the coupons from a patient, although the manner in which the claimant got them was not at issue.

In addition, the employer provided no proof that it had told employees that they could not use the coupons, or that the coupons were only for patients and their families. The testimony of an employer witness that such limitations existed was "insufficient to support a conclusion that Claimant had no legal entitlement to use the coupons."