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VELMA RICHARDS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (09/22/80)

decided: September 22, 1980.

VELMA RICHARDS, APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, APPELLEE



No. 143 March Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 573 C.D. 1977, affirming the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Appeal No. B-SUA-76-7-L-441, Decision No. B-139427.

COUNSEL

Richard D. Gordon, William C. Knapp, Neighborhood Legal Services, McKeesport, for appellant.

Richard Wagner, Chief Counsel, Bd. of Review, Dept. of Labor and Industry, Michael D. Klein, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Eagen, C.j., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Flaherty, J., filed a Dissenting Opinion.

Author: Kauffman

[ 491 Pa. Page 164]

OPINION

Appellant, Velma Richards, was denied unemployment compensation benefits by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review ("Board"). The Commonwealth Court affirmed, en banc, with three judges dissenting. Richards v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 42 Pa. Commw. 425, 400 A.2d 1345 (1975). We granted allocatur and now reverse and remand for computation of benefits.

[ 491 Pa. Page 165]

The facts are not in dispute. In January, 1976, appellant earned sixty-eight dollars a week as a bus driver for the Quaker Valley School District ("Quaker"), where she had been employed for over six years. Her husband, employed by the Barberry Horse Farm ("Barberry") earned approximately $500 a month. In addition, Barberry provided free use of a house in nearby Sewickley, Pennsylvania, with a rental value of one hundred fifty to two hundred dollars a month.*fn1

Mr. Richards was fired in January, 1976, and the family was forced to vacate the Barberry house. A relative immediately made available another rent-free house in Large, Pennsylvania, approximately forty-five miles away. Appellant testified without contradiction that the sudden loss of her husband's salary and the Barberry house forced the family to move to Large. Appellant further testified that because she was unable to commute ninety miles a day, she was forced to terminate her employment with Quaker.

Appellant was unable to find employment in the Large area until May, 1976, when LKB Transportation Company ("LKB") employed her as a bus driver for five days and then laid her off for lack of work.*fn2 Appellant promptly applied to the McKeesport Bureau of Employment Security ("Bureau") for unemployment compensation. Her application was denied in August, 1976, because the Bureau concluded that (1) since appellant had voluntarily terminated her employment with Quaker to join her spouse, she was not eligible for benefits under ยง 802(b)(2)(I) of the Unemployment Compensation Act ("Act"),*fn3 and (2) her earnings at

[ 491 Pa. Page 166]

LKB were insufficient to qualify appellant for compensation under Section 801(f) of the Act.*fn4 She appealed to a designated referee of the Board, and after a hearing at which appellant was not represented by counsel, the referee found (1) that appellant moved to Large because she could not afford to live in Sewickley, and (2) that appellant left Quaker's employ because she could not commute ninety miles a day. The referee affirmed ...


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