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Mark A. Hackler v. Unemployment Compensation Board : of Review

July 15, 2011

MARK A. HACKLER, PETITIONER
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD : OF REVIEW,
RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Judge

Submitted: April 21, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENEE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge

OPINION BY

JUDGE COHN JUBELIRER

Mark A. Hackler (Claimant) petitions for review of an Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) that affirmed the Unemployment Compensation (UC) Referee's (Referee) Decision finding him ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law).*fn1 On appeal, Claimant argues that his right to due process was violated because the Referee failed to adequately assist him, as a pro se claimant, during the evidentiary hearing as required by 34 Pa. Code § 101.21. In the alternative, Claimant argues that the evidence relied upon by the Board was insufficient to support the finding that willful misconduct was the reason he was separated from his job. Because we agree with Claimant that the Referee failed to comply with 34 Pa. Code § 101.21, we reverse the Order of the Board and remand this matter to the Board for a new hearing.

Claimant worked as a mechanic at Marlin's Auto Center (Employer) and was separated from his employment on June 21, 2010. (Referee's Decision/Order at 1.) Claimant applied for UC benefits and submitted separation materials to the UC Service Center indicating that he worked to the best of his ability, but was discharged for unsatisfactory work performance without any warning. (Claimant Questionnaire, R. Item 2.) Employer also submitted materials to the UC Service Center confirming that it discharged Claimant for unsatisfactory work performance, but asserting that Claimant received daily warnings. (Employer Questionnaire, R. Item 4.) The UC Service Center found Claimant ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e) of the Law because it found that Claimant received numerous warnings and did not work to the best of his ability. (Notice of Determination, R. Item 5.) Claimant appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before a Referee.

At the hearing, Claimant and Roberta Waltersdorff, co-owner of Employer, appeared pro se and submitted testimony. Employer testified that Claimant was fired because of customer complaints about his work performance and an irregularity in Claimant's application of a state inspection sticker on Claimant's vehicle. Claimant seemed confused at the hearing, but attempted to refute Employer's statements. The Referee found that Claimant committed willful misconduct and affirmed*fn2 the determination of the UC Service Center. (Referee's Decision/Order.) Claimant appealed to the Board, which affirmed the Decision of the Referee. In concluding that Claimant committed willful misconduct and was ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e) of the Law, the Board made the following factual findings:

1. The claimant was last employed as a full-time mechanic by

Marlin's Auto Center from January 2010 at a final rate of $16.00 an hour and his last day of work was June 21, 2010.

2. On June 18, 2010, a customer brought his car back to the auto center after the claimant had performed work on the car. The customer brought the car back to the auto center because the job had not been done correctly. In addition, to the above complaint, five other customers had brought back their cars after the claimant had performed work on each of their respective cars.

3. The employer also cited to an incident wherein the claimant was trying to place an inspection sticker on his own car, which had bald tires. The tires in question did not contain any tread.

4. When the employer confronted the claimant about the matter,

the employer would not allow the claimant to place the inspection sticker on his car. The employer also explained to the claimant the ramifications of the claimant driving his vehicle with bald tires. The claimant indicated that he had "good" tires at home.

5. A meeting was conducted with the claimant on June 21, 2010.

At that time, the claimant was informed that the employer would no longer need his services.

6. The claimant was terminated because of customer complaints and because he was jeopardizing the employer's state inspection license.

(Board's Decision and Order at 1-2.) With regard to Claimant's allegation that he was denied due process at the hearing, the Board stated that although "the Referee may have been short with" him, Claimant had an opportunity to present his case and was in no way prevented from offering evidence. (Board's Decision and Order at 3.) Claimant now petitions this Court for review.*fn3

On appeal, Claimant argues that the Referee denied him "due process" at the hearing, which essentially challenges whether the Referee conducted the hearing in accordance with the applicable regulation at 34 Pa. Code ยง 101.21. Alternatively, Claimant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the Board's finding that he committed willful misconduct. We first address whether the ...


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