David Cohen, Phyllis C. Halpern, Philadelphia, for appellant.
William L. Hammond, Special Dep. Atty. Gen., Frank F. Truscott, Atty. Gen., for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside and Ervin, JJ.
[ 176 Pa. Super. Page 485]
In this unemployment compensation case Florence Z. Spotts (hereinafter referred to as claimant) was denied benefits by the bureau, the referee, and the Board of Review on the ground that she voluntarily terminated her employment without good cause under the provisions of Section 402(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law. Claimant has appealed to this court contending (1) that she did not voluntarily leave work; (2) that her unemployment was not due to her voluntarily leaving work; and (3) that the 1953 amendment*fn1 to Section 402(b) of said statute is unconstitutional.
Prior to November 17, 1953, claimant was employed by Sylvania Electric Products, Inc., in Emporium, Pennsylvania. She is married and has three children aged respectively six, five, and three years. Her original employment was on the second shift, from 4 p.m.
[ 176 Pa. Super. Page 486]
to 12:30 a.m. Due to lack of work on this shift, claimant received 40 hours advance notice that she was to be laid off from her usual work of loading tabulating machines. During this 40-hour period she attempted to exercise her seniority rights in order to obtain other work on the second shift. However, an employe with greater seniority obtained the position claimant was seeking, and claimant was thereupon notified that work would be available for her on the first shift from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Claimant then 'accepted a voluntary lay-off', because she had no one to stay with her three small children during day shift hours.
The relevant provision of the Unemployment Compensation Law (1953 amendment italicized) reads as follows: 'An employe shall be ineligible for compensation for any week * * * (b) In which his unemployment is due to voluntarily leaving work without good cause; * * * provided, with respect to the determination of suitable work under section four (t), marital, filial and domestic circumstances and obligations shall not be deemed good cause within the meaning of this act * * *.' Prior to the enactment of the 1953 amendment, we had ruled that 'good cause'*fn2 need not be directly connected with the employment, consistently recognizing that family obligations might constitute good cause. See In re Teicher Unemployment Compensation Case, 1944, 154 Pa. Super. 250, 35 A.2d 739; In re Sturdevant Unemployment Compensation Case, 1946, 158 Pa. Super. 548, 45 A.2d 898; Case of Mooney Unemployment Compensation, 1948, 162 Pa. Super. 183, 56 A.2d 386; Hamilton Unemployment Compensation Case, 1953, 172 Pa. Super. 413, 94 A.2d 63; Quiggle Unemployment Compensation
[ 176 Pa. Super. Page 487]
Case, 1953, 172 Pa. Super. 430, 94 A.2d 367. The change in the language of the statute indicates a change of legislative intent: Ogilvie's Estate, 291 Pa. 326, 139 A. 826; Midvale Co. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 165 Pa. Super. 359, 67 A.2d 380.
Claimant's first contention is that she was compelled to cease work, not because of her changed circumstances, but because of the inability of the company to provide continued employment 'on the same terms as before'. The answer is that a change in shifts cannot be considered a change in the terms of employment. As we said in Mehlbaum v. Unemployment Compensation Case, 175 Pa. Super. 497, 107 A.2d 141, 143: 'We must not lose sight of the purpose of the Act, as expressed in the declaration of public policy. It was designed to benefit those persons who become unemployed through no fault of their own. * * * This public policy must be considered in construing every provision of the law and in determining eligibility for compensation in every case. * * * The Act must be construed sensibly, so that absurd results may be avoided.' To suggest that claimant did not 'voluntarily' cease work, in the face of the offer of continued employment on a different shift, is to give the situation an ...