Appeals by claimants, from decisions of Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Nos. B-98878-E and B-98879-E, in re claims of Carol D. Stiffler et al.
T. Dean Lower, for appellants.
Sydney Reuben, Assistant Attorney General, with him William C. Sennett, Attorney General, for Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, appellee.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J. Montgomery, J., concurs in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Watkins, J. Wright, P. J., and Jacobs, J., join in this dissenting opinion.
[ 216 Pa. Super. Page 107]
This is an appeal from a denial of benefits to appellants under the Unemployment Compensation Law, § 401, as amended, 43 P.S. § 801(f)(2).
The facts in this case as determined by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review follow. Both appellants took excused absences from their employment due to maternity in 1966. Under company policy, such excused absences could extend up to eighteen months, unless terminated sooner by the employee. After being certified by their physicians as able to work, they reported to the employer in February 1967 (well within eighteen months of their leave). They were, however, not rehired but instead were put on a recall list, since the employer was in the process of reducing its work force at that time.
Appellants then filed applications for unemployment compensation benefits on March 20, 1967, and reported weekly as required. These applications were denied for alleged failure to establish that appellants were unable to resume work because of a "reduction in force" by the employer.*fn1
[ 216 Pa. Super. Page 108]
In making this determination, the Board relied exclusively on the fact that when appellants returned from their leaves of absence, their employer had a greater work force than when they began their leaves.
The Board refused to consider as relevant that when appellants reapplied for work, the employer was in the process of reducing its work force by not hiring replacements for job vacancies as they arose. Moreover, the Board also failed to consider as relevant that within two months following appellants' reapplication for work, which was also within eighteen months of their leaves of absence, the employer's work force fell below the level it had reached in February, 1966.
The issue before us, therefore, is whether the Board erred in finding that there was no "reduction in force."
The purpose of the Unemployment Compensation Act is to relieve employees against the distress of involuntary unemployment. As was stated in Semanisin Unemployment Compensation Case, 198 Pa. Superior Ct. 303, 305, 181 A.2d 854 (1962), "the principal object of the unemployment compensation law is to alleviate economic distress in individual cases and to extend help to those unemployed through no fault of their own." Thus, when as in the instant case, the Act makes compensation dependent upon whether an employee ...