Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In re: Claim of Bonnie Groch, No. B-202328.
Mark S. Lobhauer, for petitioner.
Richard F. Faux, Associate Counsel, with him Richard L. Cole, Jr., Chief Counsel, and Charles Hasson, Acting General Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Craig, MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
Before this Court is an appeal by Bonnie Groch (Claimant) from a decision and order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirming a referee's denial of benefits on the grounds that Claimant was discharged from her employment for willful misconduct.*fn1 We affirm.
Claimant has not challenged the substantive merits of the Board's decision. Rather, she brings to this Court an appeal focusing on whether the Board transgressed
her due process rights in its handling of her appeal from the referee's decision.*fn2 Specifically, she argues that, because she was proceeding pro se in this matter up until the time of her appeal to this Court, it was incumbent on the Board to fully notify her of her right to request oral argument before the Board and to file a brief. Claimant asserts that this is especially so in light of the fact that she failed to appear at the referee's hearing and thus never had the opportunity to testify, present evidence or confront employer's witnesses.*fn3 She alleges that since no notice was given to her of her right to request oral argument and file a brief, it was therefore error, under Section 504 of the Law, 43 P.S. § 824,*fn4 for the Board
to render a decision on her appeal and a remand should be ordered to enable her to develop her case.
It is well settled that the essential elements of due process in an administrative proceeding are notice and an opportunity to be heard. Wojciechowski v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 116, 407 A.2d 142 (1979). In the context of a proceeding before the Board, these elements encompass the right to request oral argument, the granting of which is discretionary, and to file a brief. Sacks v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 208, 429 A.2d 136 (1981); Chambers v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 13 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 317, 318 A.2d 422 (1974). Moreover, by virtue of 34 Pa. Code § 101.21(a), a claimant appearing at the referee's hearing without counsel is entitled to assistance from the referee in the development of his case and advice as to his basic rights. Bennett v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 66 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 455, 445 A.2d 258 (1982).
In the case at bar, a review of the record reveals that Claimant was clearly advised in the referee's written opinion and order of her right to appeal to the Board. She exercised this right, utilizing the form provided for that purpose and also a six page letter itemizing her disagreements with the referee's decision. The regulations, in addressing an appeal from the referee to the Board, contain no analogue to 34 Pa. Code § 101.21(a). Nothing concerning this latter stage of the proceedings requires that an uncounseled claimant be shown any greater deference than would be afforded a claimant with an attorney, ...