Tuesday, March 13, 2018

UC - overpayment - fault - claimant's state of mind

Cumpston v. UCBR – Cmwlth. Court – March 12, 2018 – unreported* memorandum opinion

Held:  Board’s finding that overpayment was due to claimant’s fault was “unsupported by either the record or [the Board’s] own factual findings.

The term “fault” in Section 804(a) of the Law is defined as “an act to which blame, censure, impropriety, shortcoming or culpability attaches.” . . . . A “blameworthy act requires a showing of the actor’s state of mind” and “embodies . . . knowing recklessness or gross negligence.” . . . .A finding of fault “requires conduct ‘of such a degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design, or show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.’” . . . . “Conduct designed improperly and intentionally to mislead [the Department] is sufficient to establish a fault overpayment.” . . . .  However, where the claimant’s failure to provide information is due to negligence, mistake, or confusion, he or she cannot be held liable for a fault overpayment . . . .

Here, the Board made no factual findings regarding Claimant’s state of mind; it merely found that she “did not disclose that she refused continued work in a different department.” . . . .This finding, however, is belied by the record. Although Claimant testified that she did not believe she was offered a job, the record establishes that she did, in fact, notify the Department of a discussion about continuing work in another department.  Claimant also testified to these facts at the hearing, and neither the referee nor the Board discredited that portion of Claimant’s testimony

Most significant, perhaps is the Board’s own finding, in addressing the penalty provisions of Section 801 of the Law, that Claimant “did not knowingly make a false statement” to the Department when she applied for benefits.

This case is also reported in the PLAN Legal Update  http://planupdate.blogspot.com/ , 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