Monday, July 08, 2013

UC - ability to work, suitable work - existing work v. other work

Anthony  v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – July 3, 2013 – unreported memorandum opinion


Claimant, a truck driver, held able to work and eligible for UC benefits, because

            - Employer did not introduce any evidence that Claimant’s high blood pressure or failure to pass the physical examination was caused by his conduct or inaction, and

            - No evidence was presented that Claimant suffered from any medical restriction other than high blood pressure or that he was restricted from any work that did not require driving.

The Board’s conclusion that Claimant was ineligible for benefits under Section 401(d)(1) of the UC Law, was unsupported by the record and contrary to law. Section 401(d)(1) requires only that the Claimant be “able to work and available for suitable work.” 43 P.S. § 801(d)(1). “Suitable work” is not limited to the particular type of job at which the claimant was previously employed. Rohde v. UCBR, 28 A.3d 237, 243 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011); Hower & Son v. UCBR, 509 A.2d 1383, 1386 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986); Davy v. UCBR, 392 A.2d 330, 332 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1978); see also Section 4(t) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, 43 P.S. § 753(t) (defining “Suitable Work” as “all work which the employe is capable of performing”). A claimant is “able to work and available for suitable work” under Section 401(d)(1) if he is capable of doing and available for some kind of paid work. Rohde, 28 A.3d at 243; Hower & Son, 509 A.2d at 1386; Davy, 392 A.2d at 332. “The law does not require that the employee be available for full-time work, for permanent work, for his most recent work, or for his customary job, so long as the claimant is ready, willing, and able to accept some suitable work.” Rohde, 28 A.3d at 243.

While the burden is on the claimant to prove availability for suitable work, Rohde, 28 A.3d at 243; Hower & Son, 509 A.2d at 1386, Claimant’s failure to appear at the Referee’s hearing did not prevent him from satisfying that burden.  

Claimant’s registration for unemployment compensation created a presumption that he is able to work and available for suitable work, and that presumption satisfies his burden of proof, unless it was rebutted by the evidence before the Board. Penn Hills School District v. UCBR, 496 Pa. 620, 625, 437 A.2d 1213, 1216 (1981); Rohde, 28 A.3d at 243; Hower & Son, 509 A.2d at 1386.

There was no evidence before the Board that suggested or would support any inference that Claimant had restricted the hours that he could work, that he was not seeking work or that he was disabled from working. The only evidence of any limitation on Claimant’s employability was that he had a level of high blood pressure that prevented him from obtaining a commercial driver’s license. This showed only that he could not work at his existing job as a truck driver or do other work that required driving. That is not sufficient to overcome the presumption that Claimant was able and available to work. The mere fact that a claimant has a medical condition that disables him from working at his prior job and other jobs requiring driving does not make him unable to work or unavailable for suitable work. Hower & Son, 509 A.2d at 1386 (claimant held eligible for benefits despite failure to appear at referee hearing because evidence that claimant suffered seizure and that doctor had restricted him from jobs requiring driving did not negate that he was able to work and available for suitable work).

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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.

 

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