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JAMES W. PRIOR v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/18/80)

decided: June 18, 1980.

JAMES W. PRIOR, 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 James W. Prior, No. B-168069.

COUNSEL

Gretchen Regenhardt, for petitioner.

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

Judges Rogers, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 214]

James W. Prior (Claimant) appeals from an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), which affirmed the referee's decision to deny Claimant unemployment compensation benefits. The referee and the Board found Claimant ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Act), Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. [1937] 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. ยง 802(e), which provides:

An employe shall be ineligible for compensation for any week --

(e) In which his unemployment is due to his discharge or temporary suspension from work for willful misconduct connected with his work. . . .

Claimant was last employed by the General Electric Company (Employer) for over six years; he was

[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 215]

    working as a welder-assembler when suspended on August 31, 1978. On August 18, 1978, a pipe bomb had been detonated under a transit car in the place of Claimant's employment. During the subsequent investigation of the incident, an employee brought to Employer a vial of "little finger" size allegedly containing a small amount of gunpowder of insignificant destructive capacity. The employee reportedly had found the vial in an unlocked drawer of a tool cart formerly used by Claimant.

At the Employer's investigative hearing on August 31, 1978, Claimant admitted to having brought onto Employer's premises two and one-half years prior thereto a small vial of gunpowder for analysis by a co-worker. Claimant testified that he had mislaid the vial and six months later abandoned his search for it. Following the hearing, Employer suspended and then discharged Claimant for violation of the Employer's conduct rule which prohibits "[c]arrying firearms, ammunition or any other kinds of weapons on the employee's person in the plant without specific Company authorization." The Claimant was not connected with the explosion incident on August 18, 1978. Claimant's suspension and termination were due solely to his admission of having brought the vial of gunpowder onto Employer's premises, thus violating Employer's conduct rule of which Claimant was aware.

Based on the above facts, the Board concluded that Employer had met its burden by proving that Claimant's conduct constituted willful misconduct. Though not defined statutorily, "willful misconduct" has been interpreted judicially to encompass "an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interest, a deliberate violation of the employer's rules, a disregard of the standards of behavior which the employer has the ...


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