Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of Lawrence J. Boyle, No. B-123451.
Harold I. Goodman, with him Cassandra M. Menoken, for appellant.
Charles G. Hasson, Assistant Attorney General, with him Sydney Reuben, Assistant Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, and Wilkinson, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
In this direct administrative appeal, we are asked to decide whether the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), Appellee herein, in applying Section 402(b)(1) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act of December 5, 1936, P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 802(b)(1), to Lawrence Boyle (Claimant) denying him compensation, erred under the recent Supreme Court pronouncement in Lattanzio v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Pa. , 336 A.2d 595 (1975).
Claimant was last employed by Merit Protective Service as a crew chief and shipper at a weekly wage of $100.00 having served in that capacity seven months prior to termination. When he first reported for work. Claimant was told to, and did, maintain his hair at what was mutually considered to be a reasonable length. The referee found, and the Board adopted as fact, that during the final two months of his employment, Claimant "grew a beard and allowed his hair and moustache to grow to unreasonable lengths." On May 2, 1974, four days prior to the termination, Claimant was told by his immediate supervisor that he must shave his beard and cut his hair because the company president who was to visit the operation on May 7, 1974, preferred that the employees maintain short hair and clean shaven faces. Apparently the supervisor's instruction was given in an attempt to preclude a potential controversy because the record reveals that this supervisor on several prior occasions had told Claimant he had no objections to his appearance. On the day before the president's visit, Claimant informed the supervisor that he could not comply with the order because he believed that the condition of his hair in no
way adversely affected his job performance. On these facts the referee and Board denied compensation pursuant to Section 402(b)(1), 43 P.S. § 802(b)(1).
Our reading of Lattanzio gives rise to the conclusion that the Board has a heavy burden indeed to defend its denial of benefits for failure of an employee to either shave or have a haircut upon request. Lattanzio and the instant case are strikingly similar, but for the fact that the former presented a factual posture in which Claimant was returning to work as a security guard after a layoff when he refused to comply with a haircut order of the employer, thus calling into play a Section 402(a), 43 P.S. § 802(a)*fn1 situation where the standard for refusing suitable work is good cause. In this case, Claimant was in a continuing employment situation when his failure to abide by the employer's grooming request caused the termination. The basis for denial of benefits here is Section 402(b)(1), 43 P.S. § 802(b)(1)*fn2 which provides inter alia that compensation will be denied where "the unemployment is due to a voluntary leaving work without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature." (Emphasis added.)
Therefore, our decision resolves to the question of whether an employer's haircut order as a condition of continuing an employment is as repugnant as conditioning the commencement of employment on such an order. Phrased differently, given that our Supreme Court has already held that an individual when seeking employment has the right to determine his personal appearance in a job setting where that appearance is in no way essential
to the performance of job duties, can we now hold that the right to determine personal appearance does not equally attach to an employee who already enjoys an employment relationship? To so hold would ...