Friday, June 26, 2015

UC - willful misconduct - absences

Beck v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – unreported memorandum opinion – June 16, 2015



Absences alone, although possibly grounds for discharge, do not necessarily constitute willful misconduct. Vargas v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 486 A.2d 1050, 1051 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1985). At least one of the following elements must be present to justify the denial of benefits: (1) excessive absenteeism; (2) failure to notify the employer in advance of the absence; (3) lack of good or adequate cause for the absence; (4) disobedience of an employer’s policy; or (5) disregard of warnings. Id. at 1052. “An employer has the right to expect [its] employee[s] to maintain regular working hours and to comply with office procedures.” Unemployment Compensation Board of Review v. Glenn, 350 A.2d 890, 892 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1976).


Once the employer meets its burden, the burden of proof shifts to the employee to prove that he had good cause for his actions. Guthrie, 738 A.2d at 522. The employee establishes good cause where his actions are justified or reasonable under the circumstances. Frumento v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 351 A.2d 631, 634 (Pa. 1976). Whether a claimant has good cause to violate a work policy is a question of law subject to our review and should be viewed in light

of all of the attendant circumstances. Docherty v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 898 A.2d 1205, 1208 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006).



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 case, search for the case by name and date on Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar, or the court website




UC - vol. quit - substantial change in working conditions and compensation - retaliation

WFG Natl. Title Insurance Co. v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – June 25, 2015 – unreported memorandum opinion



Claimant worked as a vice president of agency sales. His compensation was an annual salary of $105,000, plus commission.   In September 2013, Employer advised Claimant that he would be working under the direction of a new supervisor. In light of problems involving harassment and profanity that he was experiencing with his former supervisor, however, Claimant deemed it time to “go on the record” and registered a formal complaint with Employer’s human resources department outlining the behavior of his former supervisor and how it had increased his anxiety and led to a higher dose of medication.  Although Employer conducted an investigation, it dismissed Claimant’s allegations and took no disciplinary action against the former supervisor.


In October, 2013, Claimant’s new supervisor presented him with an itemization of new goals and expectations for the fall of 2013.  Part of the new plan involved the exclusion of Claimant’s top two income producing clients, something that would would result in a pay decrease of approximately 15% - 20% yearly.”  Another part of the new plan included the expectation that Claimant would achieve an average of ten new agents per month, despite that fact that Employer, as a whole, “achieve[d] only slightly higher than ten new agents per month.”  Soon thereafter, Claimant met with both his former and current supervisors, expressing his dissatisfaction with the new plan. In response, they advised Claimant that there would be no changes and that “he would be expected to conform to the new expectations.”  Claimant believed that the new plan constituted retaliation for his formal complaint.  Claimant quit his job “due to his belief [that] the new goals and expectations represented a unilateral change to his job duties and contained unachievable expectations.”


A claimant bears the burden of proving necessitous and compelling cause for leaving his or her job.   In order to show such cause, the claimant must establish that: “(1) circumstances existed which produced real and substantial pressure to terminate employment; (2) such circumstances would compel a reasonable person to act in the same manner; (3) the claimant acted with ordinary common sense; and, (4) the claimant made a reasonable effort to preserve [his] employment.”  While we recognize that cause of a necessitous and compelling nature may exist where an employer has instituted an unreasonable, unilateral change in the employment agreement, mere dissatisfaction with reasonable modifications in working conditions is not considered good cause for a voluntary quit. Kistler v. UCBR, 416 A.2d 594, 597 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980). It is up to the claimant to establish that the change was so unreasonable and so burdensome that a reasonable person under like circumstances would have been compelled to quit. Unangst v. UCBR, 690 A.2d 1305, 1307-08 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997).


Where an employer modifies the method by which it pays its employees, such as altering the basis for commissions, necessitous and compelling cause for a voluntary quit may be established. #1 Cochran, Inc. v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 579 A.2d 1386, 1390 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990). While a significant reduction in pay may constitute necessitous and compelling cause, Naylon v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 477 A.2d 912, 914 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1984), there is no talismanic percentage figure to denote a sufficiently substantial reduction in pay from one that is not. Each case must be decided on its own circumstances. Ship Inn, Inc. v. UCBR, 412 A.2d 913, 915 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1980).


In concluding that Claimant established necessitous and compelling cause for his voluntary quit, the Board weighed the evidence and found significance in both the combination and relatively quick succession of events. These events included Claimant’s reassignment to a new supervisor, Employer’s unwillingness to act on Claimant’s formal complaint, the substantial reduction in his compensation and presentation of the memo itemizing unachievable new goals and expectations. The proverbial “last straw” occurred at the supervisors’ meeting with Claimant when they refused to negotiate the unreasonable goals outlined in the memo. As the Board determined, it was not unreasonable for Claimant to conclude that Employer’s presentation of unattainable targets was retaliation for his recent complaint, which resulted in no action being taken by Employer. Accordingly, accepting Claimant’s version of the events and weighing the evidence, the Board concluded that Employer’s substantial and unilateral changes, done in the spirit of retaliation, constituted necessitous and compelling cause for Claimant’s voluntary quit. We agree.




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 case, search for the case by name and date on Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar, or the court website