Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UC - willful miscoduct - asking for substantial loan from subordinates

Weingard v. UCBR - August 10, 2011

Claimant committed willful misconduct by asking for a loan of $1,000 from subordinate employees whom he supervised.

- remoteness in time - The court rejected the argument that employer waiting too long before firing him (3 weeks) - employer conducted an investigation during that time

- rule violation - The court accepted claimant's argument that employer had not established a rule violation. To establish a rule violation, it is the employer’s burden to establish the existence of the rule and that the claimant was aware of the rule. Here, Employer does not have a specific rule prohibiting employees from engaging in loan transactions with each other. The rule in question, which prohibits "operating or acting in any manner that is contrary to the best interests of Employer," is so general as to be meaningless to this appeal. See UCBR v. Bacon, 361 A.2d 505, 507 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1976) (employer did not show conscious disregard of a policy that "actually sets no real standards of behavior or expectations of the employee which we could say that this claimant had consciously violated.") Claimant testified that he did not know there was a policy prohibiting him from soliciting loans from co-workers, and he did not believe that asking another employee for a loan harmed Employer’s interest in any way. Employer provided no evidence to the contrary. We conclude that the Board erred in determining that Claimant knowingly violated a work policy.

- willful misconduct - The court held that claimant's conduct did violate the standards of behavior which the employer had a right to expect of an employee, citing Ravenell v. UCBR, 377 A.2d 1297 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1977), where the manager of elderly, low-income housing borrowed money from a tenant. As there, the claimant here abused his position of authority and power by using his position of authority in an unseemly way. He may not have used overt threats or direct coercion, but that fact is not dispositive of the issue. Claimant held the upper hand in the relationship with the employees he supervised. His request for a loan made at least one employee uncomfortable enough to report Claimant’s request to Claimant’s supervisor. There is unspoken, and implicit, coercion when a boss makes a request for a significant loan of an employee under his supervision. Claimant’s misuse of his position as a supervisor violated the standards of behavior his Employer had a right to expect. Claimant’s importuning of subordinates for a loan constituted willful misconduct