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SUSAN A. GROSKIN v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/12/87)

decided: January 12, 1987.

SUSAN A. GROSKIN, 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 Susan A. Groskin, No. B-236662.

COUNSEL

Stephen D. Wicks, for petitioner.

James K. Bradley, Associate Counsel, with him, Peter C. Layman, Acting Chief Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 139]

Susan A. Groskin (petitioner) appeals a decision and order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirming a referee's denial of unemployment compensation benefits. The Board's denial of benefits was predicated on the finding that petitioner's conduct amounted to "willful misconduct" under Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Act).*fn1 We vacate and remand.

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 140]

Petitioner was employed as a program director with Nelson House, a residence program that provides services to the mentally retarded. As program director, petitioner reported directly to Mr. Edgar Nelson, administrator and owner of Nelson House. Nelson House has a policy and procedural manual requiring all employees who witness or have knowledge of resident abuse to report it to the chief executive, namely, Mr. Nelson, who in turn is required to investigate the incident and report to state authority.

In July, 1984, Mr. Nelson was away from Nelson House on a business trip. Upon returning, Mr. Nelson learned from some of his employees that they had received telephone calls from petitioner in his absence, the context of which was that these employees would lose their jobs or possibly go to jail if they did not report incidents of child abuse.

After conducting an internal investigation, Mr. Nelson telephoned petitioner, who was out on sick leave, and informed her that she need not report to work because he was terminating her employment. When asked the reason for her termination, the employer said, "we will discuss it at a later time." Eventually, petitioner received a letter from Nelson House stating that she was terminated for willful misconduct.

Initially, we note that in light of our Supreme Court's decision in Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement Board, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986), our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law has been committed, or whether any necessary findings of fact made by the agency are not supported by substantial evidence. See also Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704. Additionally, in an unemployment compensation case, whether conduct amounts to willful misconduct is a

[ 103 Pa. Commw. Page 141]

    question of law subject to our review. Browning-Ferris Industries of Pa., Inc. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 93 Pa. ...


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