Monday, January 11, 2016

UC - voluntary quit - increase of 66 miles/day in daily commute

Intermediate Unit 1 v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – January 6, 2016 – unreported memorandum opinion

Court upheld UCBR finding of good cause for claimant to quit her job where

            - claimant’s work was part-time
            - employer relocated her workplace
            - claimant commute increased 66 miles per day
            - no public transportation
            - claimant suggested several changes that would allow her to keep her job, including working more hours on fewer days

no capricious disregard
Court rejected employer argument that UCBR capriciously disregarded evidence that claimant’s proferred reason for resignation was pretextual.   It held that the board was free to accept claimant’s testimony and reject employer’s.   “Disturbing an agency’s adjudication for a capricious disregard of evidence is appropriate only where the factfinder has refused to resolve conflicts in the evidence, has not made essential credibility determinations or has completely ignored overwhelming evidence without comment,” neither of which was true in this case.   Wise v. UCBR, 111 A.3d 1256, 1263 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).

good cause established
Generally, in order to establish cause of a necessitous and compelling nature, a claimant must establish that: (1) circumstances existed that produced real and substantial pressure to terminate employment; (2) like 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 her employment. Procito v. UCBR, 945 A.2d 261, 264 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008). “Cause of a necessitous and compelling nature may arise from domestic circumstances and need not be connected with or arise out of the claimant’s employment.” Green v. UCBRw, 529 A.2d 597, 598-99 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1987). Transportation problems may constitute cause of a necessitous and compelling nature. Lee v. UCBR, 401 A.2d 12, 13 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979). A claimant’s transportation problems,  however, “must be so serious and unreasonable as to present a virtually insurmountable problem and the claimant must demonstrate that he or she took reasonable steps to remedy or overcome the transportation problems prior to severing the employment relationship.” Id.

reasonableness of employer action in changing claimant’s work condition is not relevant
Employer’s focus on the reasonableness of its actions and whether Claimant was aware of the possibility that her job could be relocated is “misplaced” and not relevant to the inquiry. Employer may have been entirely reasonable in its decision, and it may have informed Claimant of the possibility that her job may be moved. The focus, however, is on whether, following the relocation of her job, Claimant had necessitous and compelling reasons to resign voluntarily her employment.    The reasons for the change in employment terms and conditions are irrelevant, as “[i]t is not a defense for the employer to merely establish that it had good reasons for the unilateral change.” Chavez (Token) v. UCBR, 738 A.2d 77, 82 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999), appeal denied, 761 A.2d 551 (Pa. 2000). 
This case is also reported in the PLAN Legal Update , which is searchable and can be accessed without a password.

An unreported Commonwealth Court case may not be cited binding precedent but can be cited for its persuasive value.  See 210 Pa. Code § 69.414(b) and Pa. R.A.P.  3716

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)