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DENISE ANN AZZARI v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/02/87)

decided: March 2, 1987.

DENISE ANN AZZARI, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the case of Denise Ann Azzari, No. B-237357.

COUNSEL

Lorraine D. Taylor, for petitioner.

Charles D. Donahue, Associate Counsel, with him, Charles G. Hasson, Acting Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 255]

In this unemployment compensation case, Denise Ann Azzari, Claimant, appeals here an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) denying her unemployment compensation benefits. The Board found she was discharged for willful misconduct rendering her ineligible for benefits pursuant to Section 402(e) of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law (Law), Act of December 5, 1936, Second Ex. Sess., P.L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P.S. § 802(e). We affirm.

Claimant was last employed as a dance instructor by Point Park College (College) earning $12.00 per hour. In 1979 while a student at the College, prior to her hire in 1980, she obtained a federally-guaranteed student loan through the College to finance her education. In early 1983 she defaulted on her student loan and was warned by the College in letters dated November 30,

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 2561983]

, and March 14, 1984, to set up a repayment schedule or her job would be jeopardized. The College has a policy of requiring employees who have defaulted on student loans taken out at the College to establish repayment schedules. Claimant refused to enter into a repayment schedule and the College discharged her as of June 23, 1984. The Board found her violation of the College's policy on repayment of student loans constituted willful misconduct within the meaning of 43 P.S. § 802(e) and denied her application for benefits. Appeal to this Court followed.

In this appeal, Claimant argues that: (1) her refusal to establish a repayment schedule did not constitute willful misconduct; and (2) even if her refusal constitutes willful misconduct, she had good cause for refusing to comply with the policy so as to render her eligible for benefits. We address these issues in the order stated, ever mindful that our limited scope of review under Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704, requires us to affirm the Board unless necessary findings lack support by substantial evidence, an error of law was committed, or a constitutional right of the Claimant was violated. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement System, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986); Saxton v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 71 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 636, 455 A.2d 765 (1983).

Claimant initially contends the College's policy regarding the repayment of defaulted student loans by employees is not sufficiently work-related such that her violation of that policy does not constitute "willful misconduct" as used in Section 402(e) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 802(e). In so arguing, she concedes the College has such a policy, she was aware of it, was warned of the consequences of a violation, and consciously refused to comply. Brief for Claimant at 3-6.

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 257]

We initially recognize, as must Claimant, that an employee's conscious violation of a rule or policy of the employer ordinarily constitutes willful misconduct within the meaning of Section 402(e) of the Law so long as the employer's rule or policy is reasonable. See Elliott v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 82 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 104, 474 A.2d 735 (1984); Johnson v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 54 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 469, 422 A.2d 1361 (1980). Our appellate courts have in the past recognized that some types of employers may reasonably require their employees to honor their just debts. In Johnson v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 199 Pa. Superior Ct. 194, 184 A.2d 134 (1962), the Superior Court upheld as reasonable a Navy Department policy requiring its civilian employees to honor their just debts. The Court found the policy furthered and protected the employer's interests in that failure to discharge just debts by its civilian employees reflected unfavorably upon the good name of the armed forces and also affected public relations. Id. at 199, 184 A.2d at 134. In Johnson, the Superior Court also opined that other institutions, such as banks and financial institutions, could reasonably require their employees to honor their just debts and violations of such rules would so adversely reflect upon those institutions as to constitute willful misconduct within the meaning of Section 402(e) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 802(e). Id. We also take judicial notice of the fact that the federal government requires ...


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