Thursday, March 01, 2012

UC - willful misconduct - when negligence can be WM

Smith v. UCBR - March 1, 2012 - Cmwlth. Court - unreported memorandum decision - unreported

Section 402(e) of the Law provides, "[a]n employe shall be ineligible for compensation for any week … [i]n which his unemployment is due to his discharge … from work for willful misconduct connected with his work …." 43 P.S. §802(e). "Willful misconduct" is "behavior evidencing a wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interests; a deliberate violation of the employer's work rules; a disregard of standards of behavior the employer can rightfully expect from its employee; [or], negligence indicating an intentional disregard of the employer's interest or an employee's duties or obligations." Dep't of Corr. v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 943 A.2d 1011, 1015 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008) (emphasis added). Whether a claimant’s conduct rises to the level of willful misconduct is a question of law fully reviewable on appeal. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 550 Pa. 115, 703 A.2d 452 (1997).

In Myers, our Supreme Court rejected the willful misconduct standard previously applied by this Court in Coulter. See Finch v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 692 A.2d 619 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997). Specifically, our Supreme Court held that an employee’s negligence only constitutes willful misconduct if "[i]t is of ‘such a degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design, or show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.’" Myers, 533 Pa. at 378, 625 A.2d at 625 (quoting Coleman v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 407 A.2d 130, 131-32 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979)); Navickas v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 567 Pa. 298, 787 A.2d 284 (2001) (negligent conduct must be egregious or repetitive for it to warrant a finding that it is willful misconduct).