Friday, June 24, 2011

UC - willful misconduct - public challenge of employer action

Kelly v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - June 24, 2011 - unpublished memorandum opinion

Claimant's questioning of an employer decision in a non-abusive, non-abrasive and non-vulgar (“[d]oes everyone hear this, I am against this.”) held not to be willful misconduct, even though it took place in a waiting room where there were some employer patients. See Luketic v. UCBR, 386 A.2d 1045 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1978), and Dincher v. UCBR, 502 A.2d 797 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986).

Luketic - A poor attitude alone does not equal willful misconduct, especially where the claimant’s language was neither abusive nor vulgar and appeared justified in light of her experience. We refused to hold that rais[ing] in a non-abusive fashion what under the circumstances was a legitimate question … even coupled with a finding of a bad attitude, can reasonably be classified as willful misconduct under the [Law].

Dincher - The “mere challenge of the employer’s veracity absent vulgar and offensive language was not willful misconduct….” Dincher, 502 A.2d at 799. We also held that the “mere talking back to a supervisor absent abusive language is not willful misconduct for purposes of the [Law].” Id. at 800.


This case is also summarized at the PLAN Legal Update, which is searchable.

The opinion, though not reported, may be cited "for its persuasive value, but not as binding precedent." 210 Pa. Code § 67.55. Citing Judicial Opinions.

UC - voluntary quit - medical reasons

Woolf Steel, Inc. v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - June 24, 2011 - unpublished memoradum opinion

The court rejected an employer appeal and upheld that grant of benefits to claimant, who had serious surgery which temporarily limited his ability to do his former, heavy work. Claimant fully informed employer about his limitations and was available for work consistent with those limitations.

Here is some of the court's discussion of the issues.

In Genetin v. UCBR, 499 Pa. 125, 451 A.2d 1353 (1982), our Supreme Court set forth the standard applicable where a claimant asserts medical reasons for his voluntary quit. Genetin provides that in such cases a claimant may meet his burden under section 402(b) of the Law by showing: (1) adequate health reasons existed to justify the voluntary termination; (2) the claimant communicated such reasons to the employer; and (3) the claimant is available to work if reasonable accommodations can be made. In Genetin, the court also stated that “once [the employee] has communicated his medical problem to the employer and explained his inability to perform the regularly assigned duties, an employee can do no more.” Id., 499 Pa. at 131, 451 A.2d at 1356.

Our Supreme Court rejected the notion that an employee must specifically request a transfer to a more suitable position. Instead, the court in Genetin held that where an employee voluntarily terminates employment because of a medical condition, the employee must establish that he can no longer perform his regular duties due to the medical condition, inform his employer that he can no longer perform his regular duties, and be available for suitable work consistent with his medical condition. Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s holding, if the employee does this in good faith, it is up to the employer to provide suitable work. Genetin, 499 Pa. 125, 451 A.2d 1353 (1982).

A claimant need not always produce expert medical testimony or medical documentation to satisfy his burden to present “competent evidence”: The distinction between ‘competent evidence’ ... and the ‘competent medical evidence’ requirement articulated in the opinion of the court below is vital. The former is a broader standard which allows an applicant to meet the burden with his own testimony and supporting documents. The latter is a more stringent requirement which could result in the denial of benefits simply because an applicant fails to provide the expert testimony of a physician even where such testimony would be superfluous or cumulative. The broader standard more effectively comports with this Court's view that the Unemployment Compensation Law must be liberally and broadly construed. Steffy v. UCBR, 453 A.2d 591, 594 (Pa. 1982) (emphasis added). This Court subsequently interpreted Steffy to allow a claimant to satisfy his or her burden of production by presenting her testimony and/or supporting documents. Lee Hospital v. UCBR, 637 A.2d 695 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994); Judd v. UCBR, 496 A.2d 1377 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1985). In Goettler Distributing, Inc. v. UCBR, 508 A.2d 630 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986), this Court expressly concluded that the disjunctive “and/or” interpretation of Steffy was the better analysis and was consistent with the broad and liberal interpretation of the Law. Philadelphia Parking Authority v. UCBR, 1 A.3d 965, 968-969 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010)

Claimant provided sufficient credible evidence to establish that adequate health reasons existed causing him to voluntarily terminate his employment, that he tried to communicate these concerns to Employer, and that he was available to work. Therefore, the Board properly concluded that Claimant is not ineligible for benefits under sections 401(d)(1) or 402(b) of the Law. Accordingly, we affirm.


This case is also summarized at the PLAN Legal Update, which is searchable.

The opinion, though not reported, may be cited "for its persuasive value, but not as binding precedent." 210 Pa. Code § 67.55. Citing Judicial Opinions.