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DIETER SIEVERS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/06/89)

decided: January 6, 1989.

DIETER SIEVERS, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW



Appeal No. 56 E.D. Appeal Docket 1988 from Order of Commonwealth Court entered August 26, 1987, at No. 1301 C.D. 1986, Affirming Order of Unemployment Compensation Board of Review entered March 31, 1986, at No. B-85-99-A-3354.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ. Papadakos, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Larsen and Stout, JJ., joined.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 520 Pa. Page 83]

ORDER

Order AFFIRMED.

PAPADAKOS, Justice, dissenting.

I must dissent from the per curiam affirmance entered by the Court this date. Appellant's employment was terminated as a result of the fact that Appellant accepted an employer-designed "voluntary" termination plan rather

[ 520 Pa. Page 84]

    than risk an involuntary layoff. He was subsequently denied unemployment benefits.

Appellant worked as a maintenance foreman for Nabisco Brands, Inc. He had been with the company for over seventeen years at the time of his separation from employment on October 31, 1985. The termination of Appellant's employment came about through a plan euphemistically titled "operation leveraging and streamlining" ("OLS") which was offered unilaterally to all management employees by Nabisco. Nabisco established this plan in order to avoid mandatory layoffs of salaried personnel such as the claimant.

The particulars of the reduction plan at issue are that in April, 1985, all management personnel were notified that in order for the company to remain competitive, the company would have to reduce its number of salaried employees by thirty (30%) percent nationwide. In order to avoid becoming uncompetitive, the company offered individualized severance packages to those who would relinquish their employment "voluntarily." Had this program not produced the required staff reduction, it was asserted that layoffs would have followed. Rather than risk layoff, Appellant accepted Nabisco's offer to resign under the OLS plan.

As it turned out, more people accepted the OLS plan than was necessary to ease Nabisco's financial dilemma. Neither Appellant nor any of the other individuals who accepted the plan was advised of this. The agreement, once effectuated, was not revocable. Thus, even if such knowledge would have led Appellant or his co-workers to reconsider their decision, it came too late for them to retract their separation agreements.

Under these circumstances, Appellant was subsequently denied unemployment compensation on the theory that he had left his employment voluntarily, and the Commonwealth Court affirmed that determination. I believe that, as a matter of law, Appellant's termination here was not voluntary under our Unemployment ...


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