No. 267 January Term 1978 Appeal from the Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at Nos. 927 and 1734 C.D. 1976 and No. 1113 C.D. 1977, affirming the Decisions of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.
Harold I. Goodman, Philadelphia, for appellants.
Michael D. Klein, Asst. Atty. Gen., Harrisburg, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case. Larsen, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Flaherty, J., joined.
Appellants, Billy Berry, Edison Eby and sixteen others, are among ninety-seven former maintenance and production workers of the George Sall Metal Company and members of
Teamster's Local 115, who began a work stoppage on May 18, 1973, and subsequently filed claims for unemployment compensation benefits with the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation (Bureau). The Bureau initially denied the claims of all those involved in the work stoppage after determining they were disqualified from receiving benefits because their unemployment was a result of a labor dispute within the terms of Section 402(d) of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Act of 1937.*fn1 Among the instant appellants, only Edison Eby formally appealed the determination of the Bureau denying benefits within the ten days mandated by Section 501 of the Act.*fn2 Appellant Eby requested a hearing before a referee which took place on September 26, 1973. The referee held the work stoppage was the result of a labor dispute and affirmed the determination of the Bureau denying benefits. After review, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirmed the decision of the referee on March 6, 1974. No further appeal ensued.
The case of a co-worker, Charlie Davis, moved more slowly through the administrative process. Following the initial denial of benefits, Davis appealed and requested a hearing before a referee. Davis was represented by counsel at the hearings which took place on April 3, 1974 and September 3, 1974. The referee affirmed the Bureau determination denying benefits. Davis then appealed to the Board which, on April 30, 1975, reversed the decision of the referee after oral argument and awarded Davis benefits on the ground the work stoppage at George Sall Metal Company was the result of a lockout by the employer.*fn3
Upon learning of the decision in the Davis case, appellants retained counsel. Appellant Eby requested reconsideration of his case by the Board, and the remaining appellants requested permission to make nunc pro tunc appeals. The Board refused to grant relief on the basis that the absence of timely appeals rendered the decisions final and the mandatory language of the Act prohibits the Board from reconsideration of final decisions.*fn4 The Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision of the Board, holding that the appeal provisions of the Act are mandatory and admit of only one exception: proof that fraud or its equivalent by the administrative authorities prevented filing of timely appeals. Berry v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 33 Pa. Commw. 565, 382 A.2d 487 (1978). We granted appellants' petition for allowance of appeal.
Appellants would have us carve out an exception to the mandatory appeal requirements of the Act to provide for reconsideration of Bureau determinations and Board decisions upon proof of fraud by a party opponent to the proceedings or a showing of newly discovered, previously unavailable evidence. Both the Commonwealth Court and the Superior Court*fn5 have decided numerous cases on the principle that neither courts nor the compensation authorities have jurisdiction to extend the time for an appeal from denial of benefits, absent a showing of fraud or its equivalent on the part of the administrative authorities. See, e. g., Unemployment Compensation Board of Review v. DeVictoria, 24 Pa. Commw. 143, 353 A.2d 920 ...