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JOHN SZOSTEK v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/05/88)

decided: May 5, 1988.

JOHN SZOSTEK, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, In Re: Claim of John Szostek, No. B-259706.

COUNSEL

Andrew F. Erba, Community Legal Services, Inc., for petitioner.

Bernadette Paul, Assistant Counsel, with her, Clifford F. Blaze, Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Barry and Smith, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Smith.

Author: Smith

[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 8]

Claimant, John Szostek, appeals from a decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review

[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 9]

(Board) which affirmed the referee's denial of benefits to Claimant pursuant to Section 402(e) of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law (Law).*fn1 We affirm the decision of the Board.

The questions to be determined by this Court are whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence of record; whether Claimant's admission of drug use to Employer's medical director was admissible; and whether Claimant's conduct constitutes willful misconduct. Claimant was last employed as a meter reader for the Philadelphia Gas Works, having his last day of work on March 18, 1987, the date of discharge. Employer terminated Claimant after he admitted to smoking marijuana subsequent to his return to work from a drug rehabilitation leave of absence. The Board found that Claimant was admitted into a drug rehabilitation program on December 31, 1986 suffering from a drug addiction. On February 9, 1987 Claimant was returned to work from rehabilitation upon the condition that he remain drug-free and submit to random drug screenings by Employer's medical director. On March 11, 1987, Claimant was given a random drug screening, and subsequent thereto, after discussion of the test results, Claimant admitted to the medical director that he had smoked marijuana. Claimant was discharged on March 18, 1987 for violating the condition that he remain drug-free upon his return to work. The Board further found that Claimant had failed to establish justification for his conduct and concluded that Claimant's behavior rose to the level of willful misconduct rendering him ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e).

In reviewing Claimant's appeal, the Board's decision will be affirmed unless this Court finds that it is in violation

[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 10]

    of Claimant's constitutional rights; is not in accordance with the law; or that any necessary findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence of record. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement Board, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986). In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Board's findings, this Court must examine the testimony in the light most favorable to the party prevailing below, giving the prevailing party the benefit of any inferences which can be logically and reasonably drawn from the evidence. See Taylor v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 474 Pa. 351, 378 A.2d 829 (1977); Heins v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 111 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 604, 534 A.2d 592 (1987); Janicki v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 79 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 411, 413, 469 A.2d 713, 714 (1984), citing Whisner v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 137, 446 A.2d 336 (1982).

The question of whether conduct rises to the level of willful misconduct is a question of law to be determined by this Court. Fritz v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 66 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 492, 446 A.2d 330 (1982). Although not defined by statute, the courts of this Commonwealth have defined willful misconduct as an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interests; a deliberate violation of the employer's rules; a disregard of the standards of behavior which an employer has a right to expect of an employee; or negligence indicating an intentional disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations to the employer. McLean v. Unemployment Compensation ...


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