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LARRY A. LATTANZIO v. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD REVIEW (03/18/75)

decided: March 18, 1975.

LARRY A. LATTANZIO, APPELLANT,
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA



COUNSEL

Eugene F. Zenobi, Alan Linder, J. Richard Gray, Tri-County Legal Services, Lancaster, for appellant.

James R. Adams, Deputy Atty. Gen., Sydney Reuben, Asst. Atty. Gen., Lawrence Silver, Deputy Atty. Gen., Chief, Civ. Litigation Div., Israel Packel, Atty. Gen., Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dept. of Justice, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Chief Justice Jones joins.

Author: Nix

[ 461 Pa. Page 394]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal upon grant of a petition for allocatur, from an order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, 10 Commonwealth Court 160, 309 A.2d 459 (1973), which found appellant, Larry A. Lattanzio, ineligible for receipt of unemployment compensation benefits under the Unemployment Compensation Act, Act of December 5, 1936, P.L. [1937] 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 751 et seq. (1964). There is no serious dispute as to the facts of this case. Mr. Lattanzio was employed by Wells Fargo Alarms Services in Reading, Pennsylvania, as a crew leader installing fire and burglar alarms. On January 2, 1971, the appellant was laid off due to lack of work. He had been employed for this company since February 6, 1969, and it was conceded that during the period of his employment he was an excellent employee

[ 461 Pa. Page 395]

    and that the company had no complaints as to the manner in which he discharged his duties. On April 12, 1971, he received notice that he was to return to work at 8:00 A.M. on April 14, 1971. However, on April 13, 1971, he met with the branch manager of the company who informed him that he would be required to obtain a hair cut and to shave his beard and sideburns to conform with "acceptable standards in the community." The appellant expressed his refusal to comply with this directive and was informed that he would not be rehired.

Subsequently, appellant filed an application for unemployment compensation benefits and was notified by the Bureau that his application was denied pursuant to Section 402(a) of the Unemployment Compensation Act, supra, 43 P.S. § 802(a). The Bureau's ruling was predicated upon a finding that appellant had failed to accept an offer of suitable employment without good cause. Following a full hearing on June 1, 1971, the referee issued a decision affirming the ruling of the Bureau and, following appellant's appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review which sustained the action of the referee, appellant sought relief from the Commonwealth Court. By order and opinion dated September 19, 1973, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the appeal and we subsequently granted allocatur. This appeal followed.

The thrust of appellant's contention is that Section 402(a) as applied to the facts of this case constitutes a violation of his constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution. It has, however, been the basic law in this jurisdiction that statutes are presumed constitutional, Glancey v. Casey, 447 Pa. 77, 88, 288 A.2d 812 (1972); Commonwealth v. Daniel, 430 Pa. 642, 650, 243 A.2d 400 (1968); Daly v. Hempville, 411 Pa. 263, 191 A.2d 835 (1963), and we will not reach constitutional issues where the matter can be decided on non-constitutional grounds.

[ 461 Pa. Page 396]

    by this Court in Wedner v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 449 Pa. 460, 467, 296 A.2d 792, 796 (1972):

"'Finally, it is to be remembered that the Unemployment Compensation Law is a remedial statute, and, excepting the sections imposing taxes, its provisions mut be liberally and broadly construed so that its objectives [insuring that employees who become unemployed through no fault of their own are provided with some semblance of economic security] may be completely achieved.' Blum Unemployment Compensation Case, 163 Pa. Super. 271, 278, 60 A.2d 568, 571 (1948)."

The appellate decisions in this jurisdiction have offered various definitions for this term. "Good cause" has been defined as "[s]ome necessitous and compelling reason", Wolovich Unemployment Compensation Case, 169 Pa. Super. 356, 359, 82 A.2d 64, 65 (1951); Suska Unemployment Compensation Case, 166 Pa. Super. 293, 296, 70 A.2d 397, 399 (1950). On occasion "good cause" has been treated as synonymous with "good faith" and characterized as "not only the merely negative virtue of freedom from fraud but requires positive conduct which is consistent with a genuine desire to work and be self-supporting". Maribello Unemployment Compensation Case, 200 Pa. Super. 330, 332, 188 A.2d 861, 862 (1963); Nygren Employment Compensation Case, 184 Pa. Super. 138, 132 A.2d 727 (1957). The Commonwealth Court most recently in the case of Trella v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 10 Cmwlth. 305, ...


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