Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the case of In Re: Claim of Raybelle Vann, No. B-207996.
Harold I. Goodman, for petitioner.
Joel G. Cavicchia, Associate Counsel, with him Richard L. Cole, Jr., Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Craig, MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 190]
Ms. Vann (Claimant) has been denied unemployment compensation benefits because the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), affirming the decision of the referee, held that Claimant's actions constituted willful misconduct. See Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law), Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 802(e).
Claimant was the only witness to appear before the referee. She was not represented by counsel. After she was sworn, she was instructed by the referee that she had the right to be represented by counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right to present witnesses of her own. The referee then proceeded to identify and "introduce" certain exhibits into evidence
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 191]
including a letter from a Mr. Goodman, her employer.*fn1 These matters were part of the records of the Office of Employment Security (OES). The referee asked Claimant if she had any objections to these items. Her recorded response was "Hum-um." The referee then announced that no objections were noted and proceeded to examine the Claimant. The Claimant insisted before the Board and argues to this Court that her response to the referee's question was intended to indicate that she did object. In our opinion such a response cannot be considered a valid objection.
In any event, the hearing proceeded with Claimant testifying that she was a short order cook at Casey's Bar and Restaurant. On the date in question the boss's son, so identified by Claimant, told her to slice some lettuce and onions. She testified that she told him she had her own preparations to take care of for the lunch hour rush but that as soon as she finished that task, she would do the slicing. The son reported Claimant's refusal to obey his command to his father. Claimant continued to get her work done for the lunch hour; however, she was sent home by her employer and not recalled.
The Board found that Claimant's refusal to obey "the boss's" request constituted willful misconduct.
[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 192]
Claimant presents two issues for our consideration. She first contends that it was error for the referee to fail to instruct the Claimant that the employer had the burden of proof in the case and that Claimant had the right, where the employer presented no evidence, to decline to testify. In Harring v. Unemployment Compensation Page 192} Board of Review, 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 173, 452 A.2d 914 (1982), the Board found the claimant ineligible for benefits because of willful misconduct. The employer's only evidence was a letter from the employer to the OES. At the referee's hearing, the claimant elected not to testify. The Board drew an inference of guilt from claimant's silence which it said corroborated the employer's hearsay evidence under Walker v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 27 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 522, 367 A.2d 366 (1976). We reversed, holding that the inference from a party's refusal to testify cannot be considered evidence established by the party with the burden of proof. Without that evidence, all that remained was the hearsay ...