Thursday, October 07, 2010

UC - voluntary quit - leaving work in anger

Procyson v. UCBR - September 22, 2010 - Commonwealth Court (2-1)

The UCBR erred in concluding that Claimant’s sudden departure from work after an upsetting conversation with her supervisor constituted a voluntary quit where

- claimant, a part-time empoyee, walked out before completing her shift on Friday
- claimant never said that she was quitting
- claimant reported to work for her next scheduled shift, the next Tuesday, when ER told her that she was fired, should leave and never come back.

The law requires evidence of a conscious intention to abandon a job, but Claimant never expressed such a conscious intention. The fact that a claimant leaves work before the end of a shift does not, in itself, establish an intent to quit. Iaconelli v. UCBR, 892 A.2d 894, 896 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006).

Whether the claimant’s separation from employment is the result of a voluntary resignation is a question of law subject to our review and must be determined from the facts of the individual case. Key v. UCBR, 687 A.2d 409, 412 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996). A voluntary quit requires a finding that the claimant had a conscious intention to leave employment. Fekos Enterprises v. UCBR, 776 A.2d 1018, 1021 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001). In determining the claimant’s intent, this Court must consider “the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident.” Id.

This Court has specifically addressed the question of whether a claimant who abruptly leaves work without permission has manifested an intention to quit. We have explained that an employee who is absent from work without authorization and without taking steps to preserve the relationship by telling the employer if and when he may return may be held to have voluntarily quit. UCBR v. Metzer, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 571, 368 A.2d 1384 (1977). However, the majority of these disputes have resulted from either unreasonable or inordinately long absence periods. Ryan v. UCBR, 448 A.2d 713, 714-715 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1982) (emphasis in original).

An employee who abruptly leaves work has a reasonable period of time in which [the] employee has the opportunity to manifest an intent to quit and the employer has the opportunity to contact the employee or vice-versa. Iaconelli, 892 A.2d at 896 (citing Ryan, 448 A.2d 713). In other words, leaving the workplace in high dudgeon before the end of a shift does not, in itself, manifest an intention to quit.

The totality of the circumstances does not support the Board’s conclusion that Claimant voluntarily terminated her employment. Claimant was hoping to return to work full-time when the altercation developed at work. She never said “I quit.” Although she abruptly left work without completing her shift, Ryan established that such conduct does not, in itself, manifest a conscious intention to quit. Claimant was a part-time employee who worked only ten to thirteen hours a week. She left work on Friday and returned on Tuesday, at her next shift. This is not an “inordinately long absence.” Ryan, 448 A.2d at 715. It is not reasonable to infer that by not calling Employer on her days off, Claimant expressed an intention to quit. Indeed, Employer had the “opportunity to contact the employee,” Iaconelli, 892 A.2d at 896, but chose, instead, to drop Claimant from the Tuesday schedule without calling her. By reporting to work at her next shift, Claimant acted to preserve the employment relationship.