Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UC - late registration for employment services is NOT an automatic disqualification

Jakubowicz v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – unreported* memorandum opinion – January 17, 2017

Late registration for employment search services is “not a per se violation of” 43 P.S. 801(b)(1)(i) and 34 Pa. Code 65.11(c), which require registration within 30 days of initial application for benefits.

Footnote 10 –

In Department of Labor & Industry v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 131 A.3d 597 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2016), this Court explained:
A failure of a claimant to register timely in accordance with Section 401(b)(1)(i) of the Law is not a per se violation that automatically disqualifies a claimant from unemployment compensation. Section 401(b)(6) of the Law provides that ‘[t]he [D]epartment may waive or alter the requirements of this subsection in cases or situations with respect to which the secretary finds that compliance with such requirements would be oppressive or which would be inconsistent with the purposes of this act.’ 43 P.S. § 801(b)(6). In Sharpe v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Pa. Cmwlth.[] No. 431 C.D. 2014, . . . filed October 21, 2014), this Court addressed the Department’s ability to waive the registration requirement. We observed as follows:

During the promulgation of the Department’s regulations implementing Section 401(b) [of the Law], a commenter asked whether a ‘good cause’ standard should be incorporated into the [R]egulations. 43 Pa. B. 4730, 4735 (2013). The Department replied that in most cases where a ‘good cause’ standard is applied, it is because it is directed by statute and that it would not adopt one on its own initiative. Id. However, the Department noted that, ‘if a claimant’s ‘good cause’ for noncompliance with the regulation also constitutes a reason why compliance ‘would be oppressive or . . . inconsistent with the purposes of’ the law, the claimant’s circumstances could be addressed under the waiver provision in [S]ection 401(b)(6) of the [L]aw and [the Regulation Section 65.11(f)(6)].’ Id. [Sharpe, slip op.] at 6-7.

In short, where a claimant can show ‘good cause’ for not registering on time, the Department may waive the time requirement of Section 401(b)(1)(i) of the Law.

The Law does not define ‘good cause,’ and our Supreme Court has established that it ‘must be determined in each case from the facts of  that case.’ Barclay White Co. v. Unemployment Comp[.] B[d.] of Review, . . . 50 A.2d 336, 340 ([Pa.] 1947). In each case, ‘good cause’ must be ‘so interpreted that the fundamental purpose of the [Law] shall not be destroyed.’ Id. The central purpose of Section 401(b) of the Law is to require claimants to make ‘an active search for suitable employment’ while collecting benefits. 43 P.S. § 801(b).
. . . .
[T]he [UCBR] has abandoned the nunc pro tunc standard for evaluating a waiver of the on-line registration time requirement. Instead, it argues for a more relaxed standard, noting that not every claimant can be expected to be ‘computer savvy’ and that a single keystroke mistake can fail to effect a registration. Further, registration cannot be done by letter or by phone call. The [UCBR] rejects the argument of the Office of UC Benefits in favor of a strict liability standard. The [UCBR] believes, instead, that a case-by-case examination of ‘good cause’ is appropriate and consistent with the remedial and humanitarian objectives of the Law, which should not be frustrated ‘by slavish adherence to technical and artificial rules.’ Lehr v. Unemployment Comp[.] B[d.] of Review, . . . 625 A.2d 173, 175 ([Pa. Cmwlth.] 1993) (quoting Unemployment Comp[.] B[d.] of Review v. Jolliffe, . . . 379 A.2d 109, 110 ([Pa.] 1977)).
The [UCBR] explains that in on-line registration waiver cases, ‘good cause’ should be considered in the same way it is used to mitigate willful misconduct. . . .
. . . .
We agree with the [UCBR]’s case-by-case approach to evaluating whether a claimant had good cause for failing to timely register for employment search services under Section 401(b)(1)(i) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 801(b)(1)(i).

Dep’t of Labor & Indus., 131 A.3d at 600-02 (emphasis added; footnotes omitted).  

*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

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