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JOHN H. SINGLETON v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/26/89)

decided: April 26, 1989.

JOHN H. SINGLETON, 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 John H. Singleton, No. B-259805-B.

COUNSEL

Terry L. Fromson, Community Legal Services, Inc., for petitioner.

John Herzog, Assistant Counsel, with him, James K. Bradley, Assistant Counsel, and Clifford F. Blaze, Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Craig and Colins (p.), and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 398]

John H. Singleton appeals an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review reversing a referee's decision and concluding that failure to pass a drug screening test constitutes willful misconduct under section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law,*fn1 thereby disqualifying him from receiving benefits.

The board's findings of fact are as follows. Singleton worked as a bus driver for SEPTA from August 12, 1981 until November 20, 1986. On November 22, 1986, he was discharged for "discourtesy and conduct unbecoming a SEPTA employee." On January 13, 1987, Singleton was reinstated upon condition that he successfully complete a standard reinstatement medical exam, which included a drug screen, on January 16. The reinstatement was made pursuant to a union-employer negotiated agreement. He

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 399]

    reported, as instructed, to SEPTA's medical department for the exam.

Singleton returned to work on January 20, 1987, but was removed from his route during that day and informed that he had failed the drug screen. The results of the screen showed traces of cocaine in metabolite form present in Singleton's urine, although he denied using the drug. On February 5, 1987, Singleton was discharged "for violation of the employer's drug policy [SEPTA Order No. 85-1] and for failure to pass a drug screening test." In addition to the facts above, the board found that Singleton was aware of the policy and that the drug policy was not unreasonable.

On March 28, 1987, the Office of Employment Security (OES) responded to Singleton's application for unemployment compensation benefits by issuing a denial under section 402(e). Singleton appealed the decision, and, after a hearing, a referee reversed the decision by OES and allowed benefits. SEPTA then filed a further appeal, and the board issued its initial decision on July 15, 1987, reversing the referee's decision and denying benefits. Singleton appealed the board's decision to the Commonwealth Court, and this court, upon agreement by counsel for the respective parties, remanded the application to the board for the purpose of scheduling oral argument and thereafter reconsidering its decision and order. On May 25, 1988, the board issued a new decision denying benefits to Singleton.

Singleton, now appealing the board's reconsidered decision, asserts that he cannot be denied benefits for willful misconduct when the discharge is "pursuant to an unconstitutional and unreasonable employer policy." Alternatively, Singleton contends that he cannot be denied benefits for willful misconduct related to his work based solely upon the results of a drug screening test without any evidence or finding of job impairment.

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 400]

In unemployment compensation cases, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether one's constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law has been committed, or whether any finding of fact made by the board and necessary to support its adjudication is not supported by substantial evidence. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement Board, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986). Questions of credibility and evidentiary weight are left to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. Bignell v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 568, 434 A.2d 869 (1981). The prevailing party has the benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence, and we are bound by findings of fact supported by substantial evidence. Taylor v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 474 Pa. 351, 378 A.2d 829 (1977).

For behavior to be considered willful misconduct, it must show a willful disregard of the employer's interests, a deliberate violation of the employer's rules, a disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect, or negligence in such degree or recurrence so as to manifest evil design, wrongful intent or intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's ...


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