Thursday, November 05, 2015

UC - appeal - collateral attack by employer via request for relief from charges

Narducci v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – November 4, 2015 – unpublished memorandum opinion



This case was remanded to the Board, to allow it to find the necessary facts needed to decide the case, but there is extensive and important discussion about wthe employer requested for relief from charges filed beyond the time for an appeal, and if so, whether that is an impermissible collateral attack on the initial determination of claimant eligibility.


The UCSC process in this case was less than desirable, and the referee and UCBR failed to find critical facts, leaving the court without the fact findings it needed to decide the case

What is clear is that a) the Claimant got UC benefits starting in October 2013, b) the employer did not file an appeal, c) the employer later filed an request for relief from charges (RRFC), and d) the UCSC made findings in August 2014 that claimant was not eligible for those benefits and was subject to a fault overpayment. 


Claimant appealed and at the hearing, his counsel argued that a) the UCSC determinations were untimely and violated claimant’s rights, b) the UC authorities did not have the power to re-open the 2013 UC claim in 2014; c) the employer did not appeal the October 2013 determination or challenge it in any way until July 2014.


Again, because critical fact-finding was missing, the Court ordered a remand.  However, it engaged in an extended discussion of the issues surrounding the UCSC determination process and the possibility that the employer’s RRFC was an impermissible collateral attack on the initial determination of claimant eligibility.


Here is the court’s discussion of these issues –


Section 501(a) of the Law provides that, upon receiving an application for UC benefits, the Department must


promptly examine each application for benefits and on the basis of the facts found by it shall determine whether or not the application is valid. Notice shall be given by the department in writing to the claimant and each base-year employer of the claimant, stating whether or not the claimant is eligible under section four hundred and one (a),[6] and, if declared eligible thereunder, the weekly benefit rate and the maximum amount of compensation payable. . .


43 P.S. § 821(a) (emphasis added). Notice that an application for UC benefits has been filed must also be given to the claimant’s last employer. Section 501(b) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 821(b). Under Section 501(c)(1) of the Law, the Department is required to “promptly examine each claim . . . for compensation and on the basis of the facts found by it shall determine whether or not the claim is valid.” 43 P.S. § 821(c)(1). The Department is required to provide notice to the claimant if his or her claim is determined to be invalid and to provide notice to the employer if the employer provided information in writing to the Department raising a question regarding the claimant’s eligibility for any reason other than his or her failure to comply with Section 401(a) of the Law. Section 501(c)(2), (3) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 821(c)(2), (3). Pursuant to Section 501(e), an employer or a claimant may appeal the initial notice of determination regarding the claimant’s eligibility for UC benefits within fifteen days of receiving the notice from the Department. 43 P.S. § 821(e).7 Should the Department issue a revised notice of determination without an  appeal being taken, such revision must occur within the fifteen day appeal period. Garza v. UCBR, 669 A.2d 445, 447 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995). Section 509 of the Law provides that “[a]ny decision made by the department or any referee or the board shall not be subject to collateral attack as to any application claim or claims covered thereby or otherwise be disturbed, unless appealed from.” 43 P.S. § 829. Thus, if no revision occurs and no appeals are taken within fifteen days of the determination of eligibility, “the determination becomes final and the Board loses jurisdiction to consider the matter.” Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission v. UCBR, 991 A.2d 971, 974 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009).



Editor’s note:   I think it is significant that the Court chose to included the above in its opinion.  It certainly didnt have to, in order to decide the case. 



An unreported case may not be cited “binding precedent” but can be cited “for its persuasive value. . . .”  See 210 Pa. Code § 69.414 (a) and Pa. R.A.P.  3716 [45 Pa.B. 3975; Saturday, July 25, 2015]

If the case is old, the link may have become stale and may not work, but you can use the case name, court, and date to find the opinion in another source (e.g., Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar)