Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of Raymond H. Stackhouse, No. B-172883.
Joseph Lurie, of counsel Galfand, Berger, Senesky, Lurie and March, for petitioner.
Elsa D. Newman-Silverstine, Assistant Attorney General, with her Richard Wagner, Chief Counsel, and Harvey Bartle, III, Acting Attorney General, for respondent.
Judges Rogers, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.
[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 644]
The petitioner, Raymond H. Stackhouse, seeks review of an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review which denied benefits to him on the grounds that he was discharged for willful misconduct and so is ineligible under Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 802(e).
[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 645]
The petitioner had been employed by Lukens Steel Company for about 33 years and had the benefit of an insured paid prescription plan for himself and his family. His wife was employed at a pharmacy where her duties included filling prescriptions under the immediate supervision of her employer, recording prescriptions pursuant to the requirements of the applicable laws and preparing billings and receipts. The petitioner signed blank claim forms which requested reimbursement from his employer's insurance company under the paid prescription plan for the cost of prescriptions which he and his wife had allegedly purchased. After an investigation, the insurance carrier discovered that the receipts which had been submitted with the petitioner's claim forms did not correspond with the records of the pharmacy and that the prescriptions for which reimbursement was claimed, as the referee found, "may not have been properly made and certainly not properly recorded by the [petitioner's] wife." The referee further found that:
[a]s a result of the fact that the [petitioner] signed the insurance forms for reimbursement for prescriptions not properly handled, the insurance carrier in question reimbursed the claimant in excess of $1,000 for benefits to which he was not entitled because of the impropriety of the filling, recordation and billing of prescriptions for himself and his family.
After Lukens Steel was informed of the results of its insurance carrier's investigation, the petitioner was discharged for falsification of records, a violation of the company's rules. The petitioner's subsequent application for unemployment benefits was denied by the Bureau (now Office) of Employment Security and, after a hearing, that determination was upheld by the referee whose findings of fact and conclusion of law
[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 646]
that the petitioner had been discharged for willful misconduct were adopted by the Board.
Our scope of review, when the employer, who has the burden of proving willful misconduct, has prevailed below, is to determine whether or not the Board's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether or not an error of law was committed. Lee v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 52 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 171, 415 A.2d 456 (1980). And, although the Board's findings of fact must be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence, the decision as to the existence of willful misconduct is a question of law which must be resolved ...