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MARGARET A. LUKETIC v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/18/78)

decided: May 18, 1978.

MARGARET A. LUKETIC, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of Margaret A. Luketic, No. B-138499.

COUNSEL

James J. Lotz, with him Terry Thomas Ray, for appellant.

Daniel R. Schuckers, Assistant Attorney General, with him Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 362]

Margaret A. Luketic (claimant) appeals here from an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) which affirmed a referee's order reversing an award of unemployment compensation

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 363]

    benefits by the Bureau of Employment Security (Bureau). The referee denied benefits because of a finding that the claimant had been discharged because of willful misconduct connected with her work, grounds for ineligibility pursuant to Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law*fn1 (Act), 43 P.S. ยง 802(e).

The claimant was employed for eighteen months as a case worker for the McKeesport Neighborhood Ministry (employer). On June 1, 1976, she received a letter from her employer stating that "[d]ue to a loss in economic support for our work" she was to be laid off. A substantial portion of the employer's funding was received under contract from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and the claimant inquired of the DPW as to whether or not the employer's funding had been reduced for the next fiscal year, thus necessitating layoffs. The DPW responded that the employer's funding levels were to remain the same and the DPW subsequently contacted the employer to inquire as to whether or not layoffs were actually financially required. The employer then wrote to the claimant on June 9, 1976 and told her to return to work, indicating that the reason advanced for the prior layoff was inconsistent with the employer's contractual relationship with the state. Eleven days after returning to work, however, the claimant attended a staff meeting at which the employer's associate director announced that the agency was having funding problems and that layoffs of personnel would be necessary. At this point, the claimant stated that she thought that the agency's administration was misleading the employees as to its alleged funding problems and stated that she intended to check with the DPW

[ 35 Pa. Commw. Page 364]

    about the necessity for these layoffs. Two days later, she received a letter from the agency's executive director discharging her because of her "attitude of insubordination to superiors and incompatibility with co-workers." When she applied for unemployment compensation benefits, the Bureau approved her application, but the referee reversed on appeal, and the Board affirmed the referee's order. This appeal followed.

In willful misconduct cases, the burden of establishing the claimant's ineligibility is placed upon the employer and our scope of review is limited to questions of law and to a determination of whether or not the findings of the Board are supported by substantial evidence. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review v. Tumolo, 25 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 264, 267, 360 A.2d 763, 765 (1976). The question as to whether or not a claimant's conduct constituted willful misconduct, of course, is one of law and subject to our review. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review v. Walton, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 47, 49, 343 A.2d 70, 71 (1975), and we have previously held that for an employee's behavior to constitute willful misconduct it must evidence: (1) the wanton and willful disregard of the employer's interest, (2) the deliberate violation of rules, (3) the disregard of standards of behavior which an employer can rightfully expect from his employee, or (4) negligence which manifests culpability, wrongful intent, evil design, or intentional and substantial disregard for the employer's interests or ...


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