Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, in case of In Re: Claim of Peter F. Smith, No. B-246180.
David C. Toomey, with him, Robert L. Pratter and Carolyn Mills, Duane, Morris & Heckscher, for petitioner.
James K. Bradley, Assistant Counsel, with him, Clifford F. Blaze, Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Judges MacPhail and Barry, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.
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Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Company (Employer) appeals an order of the Unemployment
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Compensation Board of Review granting benefits to its employee Peter F. Smith (Claimant). We affirm.
Claimant was last employed by Employer as a commission salesman on June 10, 1985. He was discharged for "unprofessional work ethics," specifically for placing insurance policies through brokers not designated by the company. Claimant immediately filed for benefits and the Office of Employment Security (OES) issued a determination which allowed benefits to Claimant, with notice of determination being mailed to Employer at the following address: The PMA Group, 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thirteen days later Employer filed a notice of appeal. The enclosed cover letter was on PMA letter head and gave a reply address of PMA Building, 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Consequently, the OES mailed a notice of hearing on the original appeal to: PMA, 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Employer never appeared at the hearing and the referee held the hearing in its absence, finding for Claimant. The referee then sent out the notice of his determination to: PMA, 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Employer promptly filed a petition for appeal to the Board requesting a remand on the grounds it had never received notice of the hearing. The Board ruled that the notice of hearing was not returned by the postal authorities, therefore Employer must have received it, and dismissed the appeal.
On appeal to this court, Employer now contends that it is in fact not PMA, but more properly Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Company (PMAIC) and that the notices sent out were addressed improperly. Employer admits that its mailroom is located in the PMA Building at 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but that mail arriving there may
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not reach its proper destination unless it is directed to the specific attention of the individual and department concerned. Consequently, Employer asserts that the failure of the Board to remand the case for a hearing at which Employer (now PMAIC) could appear is a denial of due process and an abuse of discretion.
Parties to an unemployment compensation proceeding are entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to a final decision on benefits. Gadsden v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 84 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 375, 479 A.2d 74 (1984). It is undisputed that notices were mailed out, that they were mailed to the proper address of Employer and that on at least three out of the four occasions the Employer got the notice and acted on it in a timely fashion. The fact that the Employer missed the notice of hearing is the fault of the mailroom at the PMA Building and not the fault of the referee in sending the notice to the mailroom of the PMA Building. The Court is not persuaded that the distinction between Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association and Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Company is of crucial significance here. Both of these entities are part of The PMA Group, both have their address in the PMA Building at 925 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and all mail going to this address goes to a common mailroom ...