Monday, November 17, 2008

UC - credibility; fact-finding; refusal to obey employer directive

Penn-Delco Schoot District v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - November 17, 2008 - unreported memorandum decision

1) The UCBR is the ultimate arbiter of credibility and fact-finding, citing Peak v. UCBR, 509 Pa. 267, 272, 501 A.2d 1383, 1386 (1985). and Treon v. UCBR, 499 Pa. 455, 453 A.2d 960 (1982)

2) "[E]xcessive absenteeism, when properly reported and justified, is not willful misconduct, and illness is a proper justification. See Sprague v. UCBR, 647 A.2d 675, 680 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994) (six properly reported absences based on illness did not constitute willful misconduct); Tri-Corp v. UCBR, 432 A.2d 1158, 1159–60 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981) (properly reported two week leave for illness did not constitute willful misconduct).

3) “Where an employee is discharged for refusing or failing to follow an employer’s directive, both the reasonableness of the demand and the reasonableness of the employee's refusal must be examined.” Dougherty v. UCBR, 686 A.2d 53, 54 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996).

Where the action of the employee is justifiable or reasonable under the circumstances, it cannot be considered willful misconduct. Simpson v. UCBR, 450 A.2d 305 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1982). “In other words, if there was ‘good cause’ for the employee’s action, he cannot be deemed guilty of willful misconduct.” Id. at 308.

Here, it is undisputed that Employer scheduled a mandatory meeting with Claimant, and Claimant did not attend....The Board determined Employer’s mandatory meeting directive was unreasonable in light of Claimant’s medical documentation which had not yet released her to return to work. The Board also concluded Claimant had good cause to refuse Employer’s unreasonable request.

The Board’s determinations are supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, we affirm the Board’s conclusion that Claimant’s failure to attend the mandatory meeting did not constitute willful misconduct. See Thompson v. UCBR, 723 A.2d 743, 744 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999) (finding claimant’s illness to be good cause for violating employer rule requiring absent employees to find replacement workers); Kindrew v. UCBR, 388 A.2d 801, 802–03 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1978) (finding an employer’s requirement that claimant attend work or face dismissal unreasonable if claimant were ill).