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LINDA I. FERA v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/14/79)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: November 14, 1979.

LINDA I. FERA, 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 Linda I. Fera, No. B-154715.

COUNSEL

George R. Price, Jr., for appellant.

William J. Kennedy, Assistant Attorney General, with him Richard Wagner, Assistant Attorney General, Chief Counsel, and Edward G. Biester, Jr., Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 316]

Linda I. Fera, claimant, appeals from the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review which denied benefits to her under Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. (1937)

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 3172897]

, as amended, 43 P.S. ยง 802(e), the willful misconduct disqualification.*fn1 We affirm the board.

Claimant was discharged by her employer, the Stroehmann Brothers Company, for leaving the work site without notice to or permission from her immediate or higher supervisor. She left the site after receiving a number of stern and apparently dramatic reprimands from her supervisor concerning her own work and overall production difficulties. After returning to her home, she called the plant superintendent to report her absence and the underlying incident.

Claimant here attacks several findings of the board, and also alleges an error of law in the determination of "willful misconduct."

Initially, she challenges a finding as to the existence of a written company rule regarding abandoning the job site as being unsupported by any evidence other than testimony of the employer's witness, contended by claimant to be in violation of the best evidence rule. We reject that challenge because that testimony was entered without objection by claimant. As noted below, Finding No. 9 was supported independently of the challenged testimony.

Specifically, the determination of willful misconduct is substantiated by the following findings:

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 3185]

. The claimant walked off the job prior to the end of her shift without notice to or the permission of her immediate supervisor, the plant superintendent or anyone else in authority.

9. The claimant was aware that walking off the job was a violation of company policy but hoped that she would only get a few demerits or a week's suspension.

10. The claimant's walking off the job was detrimental to the employer's interests in that it placed an undue burden on other workers on the production line.

As to Finding No. 5, claimant argues that she complied with the notice requirement of the employer's policy by phoning the plant superintendent after she returned home. That claimant left before giving notice is agreed; the finding is thus supported. Requiring such notice before departure is reasonable to allow adjustments to the employer's work schedules and employee assignments before an interruption occurs.

Finding No. 9 is adequately supported by evidence as to claimant's awareness of the rule and its consequences; claimant's testimony to the contrary was in conflict with the duly admitted "Summary of Interview," signed by claimant, which indicated a complete awareness of the consequences of departing from her work assignment.*fn2

Finding No. 10 is unchallenged by claimant, and establishes a detriment to the employer. It appears

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 319]

    from the record that claimant's work assignment was part of an integrated line operation where continuity is important to ongoing production.

Finally, claimant contends that, even if the board's findings of the company rule and its violation are supported by substantial evidence, claimant's actions were justified under the circumstances, and under Frumento v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 466 Pa. 81, 351 A.2d 631 (1976), her good cause for violating the rule negates willful misconduct. The employee's burden on that point has been stated in Holomshek v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 39 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 503, 395 A.2d 708 (1979), where Judge Wilkinson said:

[I]f the employee comes forward under the doctrine of Frumento, supra, and attempts to justify the violation, the employee then has the burden of establishing good cause.

39 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 505, 395 A.2d at 709 (1979).

In view of the findings of the board and the board's view that "the claimant acted unreasonably" and that there was "no good reason" why claimant failed to contact the plant superintendent before departing, we cannot hold as a matter of law that claimant met the burden of showing good cause, nor that the board erred in concluding that claimant's actions amounted to willful misconduct as it has been articulated in the cases.

Accordingly, we affirm.

Order

And Now, this 14th day of November, 1979, the order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, dated March 13, 1978, denying benefits to the claimant is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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