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Elliott Company, Inc v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review

October 13, 2011

ELLIOTT COMPANY, INC., PETITIONER
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT :



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

Argued: June 8, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge HONORABLE RENEE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge

OPINION BY JUDGE COHN JUBELIRER

Elliott Company, Inc., (Employer) petitions for review of the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), which reversed the Unemployment Compensation Referee‟s (Referee) determination that Paul J. Detruf (Claimant) is ineligible to receive unemployment compensation (UC) benefits under Section 402(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law),*fn1 43 P.S. § 802(b), because he voluntarily quit his employment without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature. The Board found Claimant eligible for UC benefits after determining that Employer‟s change to its retirement health care plan constituted a necessitous and compelling reason for Claimant to quit his employment.

Claimant is a member of the United Steel Workers of America, Local 1145 (Union). Employer and Union ratified a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) effective March 1, 2008, which included revisions to, among other employee benefits, Employer‟s former health care plan (pre-2008 plan), modifying some of the costs of the health plan. Employer‟s health care plan under the 2008 CBA (2008 plan) included a two-year window during which eligible employees, including Claimant, were permitted to retire and continue on the pre-2008 plan during retirement, until they reached age sixty-five, at which point they would become eligible for Medicare. Claimant retired during this window and filed for UC benefits, asserting that had he not retired before February 1, 2010, he would have suffered a substantial change in his health care benefits.

The Indiana UC Service Center (Service Center) denied benefits, stating that "there was insufficient information provided to indicate whether the Claimant had a necessitous and compelling reason for voluntarily leaving the job." (Notice of Determination at 1.) Claimant timely appealed and the Referee held a hearing at which both Claimant and Employer presented multiple witnesses. The Referee issued a decision affirming the Service Center‟s denial of UC benefits under Section 402(b) of the Law. The Referee noted that the burden was on Claimant to prove that he had a necessitous and compelling reason to quit his employment that resulted from circumstances that were both real and substantial. The Referee stated that he understood Claimant‟s dissatisfaction with the deductibles being added in the 2008 plan after years of limited employee costs, but reasoned that Employer provided competent evidence that economic conditions and soaring medical costs led to the negotiated 2008 plan. Additionally, the Referee did not find the negotiated changes between the pre-2008 plan and 2008 plan to be so burdensome or substantial that it established a necessitous and compelling reason to quit. Accordingly, the Referee concluded that Claimant failed to meet his burden of proof and was ineligible for UC benefits under Section 402(b). (Referee‟s Decision/Order at 2.)

Claimant appealed to the Board. Claimant asserted that the increase in costs he would incur during his retirement under the 2008 plan was substantial and that he had to retire before his eligibility to participate in the pre-2008 plan during retirement expired on February 1, 2010. The Board reversed the Referee, and found the following facts:

1. From January 20, 1969 through January 29, 2010, the claimant was employed by [Employer] as a full-time manufacturing/

processing clerk, earning $22.31 per hour.

2. [C]laimant voluntarily retired on January 29, 2010, due to concerns about the retiree health coverage.

3. [E]mployer‟s original health plan, the [pre-2008 plan], had $5.00 co-pays and no deductible.

4. Under the [pre-2008 plan], prescriptions cost only $5.00, and hospital expenses, whether inpatient or outpatient, were 100% covered.

5. In 2008, the union employees of [Employer] ratified a new contract which included negotiated changes to the employees‟ medical coverage.

6. All active employees were placed on the newly changed medical coverage, the [2008 plan] as of March 1, 2008.

7. The new medical coverage, the [2008] plan, included larger co-pays and deductibles.

8. The deductibles included . . . $10.00, $20.00 or $35.00 for prescriptions, $20.00 co-pay for doctor visits and an out of pocket maximum of $1,000.00 per year for an individual and $2,000.00 per family.

9. The employees had an approximate two-year window from March 1, 2008 through February 1, 2010 to choose to retire with the original health care, the [pre-2008] plan, or retire after February 1, 2010 and have medical coverage under the [2008] plan until age 65.

10. This option was available for employees who were eligible to retire at 58 years of age with 30 years of service or 60 to 65 years of age with 20 years of service.

11. Employees who retired before February 2, 2010 were placed in the [pre-2008] plan from their retirement date until they reached the age of ...


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