Thursday, October 23, 2008

UC - overpayment - fault - misstatement about ability to work

Presbery v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - October 22, 2008 - unreported mem. opinion

Claimant was at fault for an overpayment that occurred when she misrepresented her ability to work when applying for UC after being in a car accident. Her own medical evidence showed that she had not been released for work and was not able/available during a period of several months after her application for benefits.

UC - vol. quit - health/safety concerns

KK Fit, Inc. v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court- October 22, 2008 - unreported memorandum opinion

The court upheld the UCBR decision that the claimant had good cause to quit her job as the director of a children's gym, whose clients included infants.

The gym had two ongoing problems about which claimant complained for 5 months, to no avail. There were wiring problems and torn upholstery; some infants were eating pieces of the stuffing.

A third problem involved spider in the gym. One child had a bad reaction to a spider bite and had to be taken to the ER. The employer promised to take care of this problem, but claimant discovered that the exterminator visit had been cancelled and quit. The spider problem was not dealt with until 10 days later.

The Referee found that Claimant “acted as a reasonable person in inferring that [Employer] probably did not intend to take care of the problem immediately, as had been the case with the upholstery and the wiring.” Accordingly, the Referee affirmed the Service Center’s determination. Employer appealed the Referee’s decision to the Board. On appeal, the Board adopted and incorporated the Referee’s findings and conclusions, resolved the conflicts in testimony in favor of Claimant, and concluded that Employer “did not make timely and reasonable efforts to correct the serious safety issues present in the children’s gym.” The court held that these findings were "amply supported" by substantial evidence and the relevant law.

In order to show a necessitous and compelling cause to quit, the claimant must show that: “1) circumstances existed which produced real and substantial pressure to terminate employment; 2) like circumstances would compel a reasonable person to act in the same manner; 3) she acted with ordinary common sense; and 4) she made a reasonable effort to preserve her employment.” An employee has a necessitous and compelling reason for terminating employment when the job jeopardizes her health or safety, or when the work results in a violation of the law.

Claimant acted reasonably in terminating her employment when she did. Claimant brought to Employer’s attention two serious safety issues regarding the electrical and upholstery defects which went unaddressed on a permanent basis for nearly five months that Claimant continued with her employment, when another safety issue arose, i.e., the problem with the spiders, at which time Claimant approached Employer about her decision to resign.

Claimant opted to trust Employer that the spider issue would be taken care of in a timely manner and, when she found out that Employer had cancelled the exterminator, she quit her employment. Employer did not address the safety issues. When Employer did not address the spider issue when it said it would, it was not unreasonable for Claimant to believe said safety condition would continue to go unaddressed, because the "Employer did not address the safety issues in a timely manner."

Claimant acted with ordinary common sense and made a reasonable effort to preserve her employment by taking proactive measures to address the safety concerns, while timely notifying the appropriate people of the various safety concerns. A reasonable person would act in the same manner both out of concern for her own safety from the faulty electrical wiring, as well as the lingering safety hazards to the children that were under her care. Based on the totality of the circumstances, and the gravity of the complaints that were not addressed, we cannot conclude that the Board erred as a matter of law in granting Claimant benefits.

real property - tax sale - notice to deceased's estate

In re Upset Price Tax Sale - Cmwlth. Court - October 22, 2008 - unreported mem. opinion

Trial court abused its discretion is setting aside tax sale, because of inadequate notice, where notice of the sale was properly sent under the Real Estate Tax Sale Law, RESTL, 721 PS 5860.602(e)(1), to the decedent owner's personal representative (PR), who had extensive contact with the Tax Claim Bureau.

Here, the PR specifically informed the TCB that the owners, her cousins, were deceased and that she was the person responsible to pay the taxes. She informed the TCB where she lived and that she was the designated agent of the family with respect to the Property for its tax liabilities. She was also appointed as the Administratrix of the estate, of her deceased cousin, who remained a record owner of the Property.

The TCB and the PR had previously corresponded regarding the Property and the PR actually prevented a previous upset tax sale when she entered into an agreement with the TCB to pay delinquent taxes on the Property. The parties stipulated that the Board of Assessment’s records since at lease 1999 listed a registered address for the owners as “c/o the PR” at her place of residence, the same address where the tax sale notices were mailed and received.

It would not have constituted ordinary sound business practices for the TCB to send notices to a person who was deceased to an address where it knew that the PR, the designated agent and person responsible for paying the taxes, did not reside.

Because the Section 602(e)(1) “first” notice was sent to and received by the PR, no additional notice or efforts to ascertain the identity and whereabouts of the owner of record were required by the TCB....TCB proved that it gave the requisite notice and there is evidence that the addressee received it. Accordingly, the order of the trial court which invalidated the upset tax sale of the Property is reversed.

public employement - termination - due process

Palmer v. Bartosh - Cmwlth. Court - October 23, 2008

Plaintiff, a school teacher, stated claim for relief under 42 USC 1983 against defendant school administrators, in their individual capacities, for dismissing him from his public employment

"Plaintiff allged alleged that the Defendants, acting under the color of state law: engaged in a secret investigation; refused to allow a witness to observe their interviews with students; coerced and/or coached students into making accusations against Mr. Palmer, which the students thereafter refused to repeat under oath; failed to advise Mr. Palmer of the specific accusations against him or give him the opportunity to rebut them; and thereby obtained Mr. Palmer’s discharge from his employment."

"We conclude that these allegations of specific conduct taken by the Defendants, which must be taken as true at this stage of this proceeding, constitute sufficient facts to state a claim for deprivation of a property right to employment and reputation in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and article 1, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and, therefore, the trial court erred in sustaining the POs to Count VII against the Defendants in their individual capacities."

The Fourteenth Amendment requires due process where the deprivation of an individual’s property right, such as the right to continued public employment, is implicated. Andresky v. West Allegheny School District, 437 A.2d 1075 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981).

Similarly, article I, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that an individual’s right to property and reputation may not be deprived without due process. R. v. Commonwealth, 535 Pa. 440, 636 A.2d 142 (1994); Pennsylvania Bar Association v. DPW, 607 A.2d 850 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992).

Due process of law requires that an individual is entitled to adequate notice of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard. Dunn v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 819 A.2d 189 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003). Adequate notice, for procedural due process purposes, requires at a minimum that notice contain a sufficient listing and explanation of the charges against the individual. Id.