Wednesday, August 17, 2011

UC - voluntary retirement

Oliver v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - August 17, 2011

Claimant voluntarily quit his employer with the Phila. Housing Authority because he believed that his pension and health benefits might be reduced as a result of the ongoing negotiations between his union and the Employer. However, the pension figures were speculative, as the pension plan was still the subject of negotiations between Union and Employer at the time he left his job. Pacini v. UCBR, 518 A.2d 606, 608-09 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986) (affirming the denial of unemployment benefits where the claimant voluntarily retired before the ratification of a new CBA in order to protect a potential reduction in pension and salary; the proposed reductions were too speculative and insubstantial to create a necessitous and compelling cause); Duquesne Light Company v. UCBR, 436 A.2d 257, 259 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981) (claimant’s voluntary retirement on the ground that, under his existing labor contract, his fringe benefits would have been frozen if he worked past age sixty-five was not a necessitous and compelling cause, where the employer’s discussions with the union about fringe benefits "were not final decisions, but proposals")

Moreover, Claimant, who was only 47 years old when he retired, admitted that his pension benefits would have been greater had he worked until age fifty-five and that continuing work was available to him. Claimant also admitted that the pension he received upon retirement was reduced, in part, because he retired early. Under these circumstances, the court found that there was substantial evidence to support the UCBR’s conclusion that Claimant lacked a necessitous and compelling cause to retire. Claimant who voluntarily terminates his employment has the burden of proving that a necessitous and compelling cause existed for the termination. Petrill v. UCBR, 883 A.2d 714, 716 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005). To receive unemployment benefits following voluntary retirement, a claimant must establish that he acted with ordinary common sense in retiring and made a reasonable effort to preserve his employment. Id.