Monday, March 16, 2015

UC - 43 P.S. 829 - no collateral estoppel use of UC decision in later/separate case

Mathis v. Christian Plumbing and Heating – ED Pa. – March 21, 2015



Plaintiff was not collaterally estopped by an adverse result in a UC case, Mathis v. UCBR, 64 A.3d 293 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013), from suing former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pa. Human Relations Act for improperly terminating his employment because of Plaintiff’s covering his work i.d. badge, which included language that the company is a “ministry” and run “in a way most pleasing to the lord...”


 The court held that the clear language of 43 P.S. sec. 829 precluded the application of collateral estoppel.  Sec. 829 states that “[n]o finding of fact or law, judgment, conclusion or final order made with respect to a claim for unemployment compensation under this act may be deemed to be conclusive or binding in any separate or subsequent action or proceeding in another forum.”




If the case is not recent, the link in this posting may not work.  In that event, search for the case by name and date on Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar, or the court website, where the opinions of all state appellate courts can be found.



UC - willful misconduct - use of work phone/computer for personal business

Oyetayo v. UCBR – March 4, 2015 – Cmwlth. Court



Claimant disqualified for willful misconduct and violation of employer rule against person use of work telephone and computer (email), after having receiving two prior warnings about zero tolerance policy.


De minimis rule not applicable after warning about strict enforcement.

While an employee at Employer would normally be permitted to engage in the occasional use of his work computer for personal email, Claimant was not a normal employee; instead the Board found that Claimant had been issued written warnings that directed him not to engage in any unauthorized use of Employer’s resources for personal reasons. Claimant’s argument that his personal email use fell within the de minimis exception therefore fails because Employer had advised Claimant that his prior personal use of Employer’s resources had exceeded what was allowed and any future use would be seen as a violation of Employer’s rules.


Doing personal things at work

There is no question that Claimant’s conduct was not merely negligent but rather of an intentional and deliberate nature. Grieb v. UCBR, 827 A.2d 422, 426 (Pa. 2003).   Moreover, this Court has on numerous occasions determined that a claimant’s use of work time to engage in personal affairs without authorization was willful misconduct even where not prohibited by a specific work rule because it was contrary to reasonable standards of behavior that an employer can expect from its employees. See, e.g., Pettyjohn v. UCBR, 863 A.2d 162, 165 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004) (holding that access of internet for personal reasons  during working hours after being advised not to constituted willful misconduct); Baldauf v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 854 A.2d 689, 692 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004) (holding that the claimant engaged in willful misconduct by accessing personal email and non-work related websites while being paid to work); Wetzel v. UCBR, 370 A.2d 415, 417 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1977) (holding that the claimant, whose employment was terminated for crocheting at work despite several warnings not to do so, had engaged in willful misconduct). Furthermore, “[a] conclusion that the employee has engaged in disqualifying willful misconduct is especially warranted in...cases where...the employee has been warned and/or reprimanded for prior similar conduct.” Ellis v. UCBR, 59 A.3d 1159, 1163 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013) ....Accordingly, because Claimant knowingly violated Employer’s work rule and because Claimant has not put forward any argument that he had good cause for violating the work rule, we hold that the Board did not err in concluding that Claimant was ineligible for benefits due to willful misconduct.


No duty to provide copy of record absent request by Claimant

Claimant cites no authority which imposes an affirmative duty on the Board to send a claimant a copy of the record at the same time as it is sent to this Court.  Instead, the applicable Board regulations provide that “[i]n the event of an appeal from the decision of the Board to the Commonwealth Court, a party may request a transcribed copy of the record of the testimony, and it shall be furnished without charge.” 34 Pa. Code § 101.71 (emphasis added). The Board’s regulations further provide that: When an interested party or his representative requests information from the file of the Board in order to present and maintain the an appeal to the Court, such information (including the hearing transcript, where the record has been transcribed) shall be made available at a reasonable time to the party and his representative, without charge,...for examination, copying and making notations therefrom.

34 Pa. Code § 101.54(b) (emphasis added). As there is no allegation that either Claimant or his attorney requested a copy of the record from the Board and the Board denied such a request, the Board did not act inappropriately or deny Claimant his due process rights by failing to send Claimant a copy of the certified record.



This  summary is also posted at the PLAN Legal Update, which is searchable  and can be accessed without a password.


If the case is not recent, the link in this posting may not work.  In that case, search for the case by name and date on Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar, or the court website




tax sale - disputed facts - right to hearing - Battisti v. Tax Claim Bureau

Estate of Filchner – Cmwlth. Court – March 9, 2015



Following its decision in Battisti v. Tax Claim Bureau, 76 A.3d 111 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013), the court held that where a petition to set aside a tax sale raises disputed issues of fact, the court must hold a hearing and take evidence, rather than summarily resolving the facts on its own.


In granting a party’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, the trial court denied Taxpayer’s objections without an evidentiary hearing, and thereby denied Taxpayer due process. Battisti, 76 A.3d at 116.  Due process under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions must be satisfied whenever the government subjects a citizen’s property to forfeiture for nonpayment of taxes. Geier v. Tax Claim Bureau of Schuylkill County, 588 A.2d 480 (Pa. 1991). Once Taxpayer presents a prima facie challenge to the tax sale, the burden shifts to the Tax Claim Bureau to prove strict compliance with the notice provisions of the RETSL. Michener v. Montgomery County Tax Claim Bureau, 671 A.2d 285, 289-90 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996). Where there is a factual dispute, a taxpayer is entitled to an evidentiary hearing and remanded the case to the trial court.




The opinion, though not reported, may be cited "for its persuasive value, but not as binding precedent."    210 Pa. Code 69.414.


If the case is not recent, the link in this posting may not work.  In that event, search for the case by name and date on Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar, or the court website