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LEA MONACO AND ALBA CARUSO v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/17/89)

decided: October 17, 1989.

LEA MONACO AND ALBA CARUSO, APPELLANTS,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, APPELLEE



Appeal from Order and Commonwealth Court entered on December 6, 1984, at No. 2794 C.D. 1982 affirming orders of Unemployment Compensation Board of Review entered on September 21, 1982, at Decision No. B-210133 and on October 19, 1982, at Decision No. B-210852.

COUNSEL

Silvio F. Modafferi, Philadelphia, for appellants.

James K. Bradley, Asst. Counsel, Clifford F. Blaze, Deputy Chief Counsel, Sandra S. Christianson, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, Maribeth Wilt-Seibert, Asst. Counsel, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Papadakos, J., joins.

Author: Nix

[ 523 Pa. Page 43]

OPINION

This appeal requires this Court to determine whether the Commonwealth Court erred in affirming the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review ("Board") that the appellants, Lea Monaco and Alba Caruso, had not been terminated from their employment but had voluntarily

[ 523 Pa. Page 44]

    quit. The appeal centers around two issues; (1) the intent of an employee to voluntarily quit, and (2) the sufficiency of "necessary and compelling" reasons to excuse voluntary termination.

This appeal is the result of a heated dispute between the agent of an employer, Jacob Siegel Company, and two employees of that company. The appellants were employed at that company as sewing machine operators. They were paid on a piece-work basis until sometime in late May, 1982.*fn1 At that time new machinery was introduced to the plant and pursuant to a union-management agreement the employees were to be temporarily paid at an hourly rate, while they became accustomed to the new machine. After a few days of the hourly pay the employees were switched back to the piece-work rate they had been paid previously. The appellants protested the change because they were fearful that they would not be able to produce an adequate income on this pay scale, but the manager assured the employees that any problem in the pay scale would be worked out with the union. The appellants were not placated by these assurances and told their manager that they were going to union headquarters. The manager replied that they could leave if they did not like the situation, "there's the door". He also stated "as soon as you walk out from that door, out of my place, you quit the job." Appellants then left the premises and went directly to the union headquarters where they were told that they had been fired.

Appellants filed for unemployment compensation benefits with the Office of Employment Security, but were denied those benefits when that office determined that the appellants had voluntarily quit their employment. An appeal was filed, and hearings were held before a referee. That referee affirmed the earlier determination. Separate appeals were taken to the Board, and it confirmed the denial of benefits. A joint appeal was taken to the Commonwealth

[ 523 Pa. Page 45]

Court, and a divided panel affirmed the decision of the Board by Memorandum opinion (Doyle, J., Palladino, J.; Colins, J., dissenting). That court held that the employees had voluntarily quit their jobs because they had left the premises without permission after being given a real choice of working or resigning. This allowance of appeal was granted to resolve the issue of whether the decision of the Commonwealth Court is contrary to existing precedent. For the following reasons we conclude that the decision of that court and the earlier determinations, that ...


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