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Imani Christian Academy v. Unemployment Compensation Board

March 21, 2012

IMANI CHRISTIAN ACADEMY, PETITIONER
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD : OF REVIEW,
RESPONDENT :



The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. Kevin Brobson, Judge

Argued: November 15, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge*fn1 HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

OPINION BY JUDGE BROBSON

Petitioner Imani Christian Academy (Employer) petitions for review of an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board), which affirmed a Referee's determination and found Claimant eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

The underlying dispute involves former employee, Orienta Nevels (Claimant), and the termination of her employment as assistant to Employer's head master on June 15, 2010. Claimant's salary was $38,500.00. Upon Claimant's termination, she applied for unemployment compensation benefits with the Duquesne UC Service Center (Service Center). The Service Center determined that Claimant was ineligible for benefits, because she did not have sufficient wages in her base year. In calculating her wages, the Service Center excluded wages from her employment with Employer based on the Service Center's conclusion that Claimant's employment did not constitute covered employment under Section 4(l)(4)(8)(a) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law).*fn2 The Service Center, thus, only took into account Claimant's wages from a previous job with Northside Urban Pathways, excluding Claimant's wages from Employer. Claimant's highest wages from Northside Urban Pathways, which occurred in the second quarter of 2009, totaled $5,124.00 when rounded to the nearest dollar. Based upon the highest quarter of wages Claimant earned within the total base year, the Service Center determined that Claimant's wages were insufficient to qualify for benefits. Claimant appealed that determination.

At the hearing before a Referee, Employer presented the testimony of Ray Sisak, Employer's financial manager. Mr. Sisak stated that Employer is a Christian school that "operates for educational purposes with strong religious influence" from Petra International Ministries (Petra), a church. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at Item No. 3, p. 8.) Employer is a nonprofit organization separate and apart from Petra. (Id. at p. 7.) Further, Mr. Sisak testified that many Petra elders serve on Employer's board of directors and many of Employer's employees are both members of the church and elders of the church. (Id. at p. 8.) While the school and Petra, at one time, shared a building in which there was a rental agreement, Employer currently operates in a separate space. Moreover, Employer pays its own bills and receives zero funding from Petra. (Id.)

Following the hearing, the Referee concluded that Claimant had sufficient wages and was eligible for unemployment compensation benefits based on the fact that Employer is a separate entity operating independently from Petra and, therefore, did not fall under the exemption provided by Section 4(l)(4)(8)(a) of the Law. Employer appealed to the Board, which affirmed the Referee's determination and granted Claimant unemployment compensation benefits. On appeal, the Board adopted the Referee's findings of fact, which included, in part, the following findings relevant to Employer's status under Section 4(l)(4)(8)(a) of the Law:

1. For the purposes of this appeal, the claimant was employed with Imani Christian Academy for approximately one year as a full-time Assistant to the Head Master earning $38,500.00 per a [sic] year. The claimant's last day of work was June 15, 2010.

2. Imani Christian Academy is a non-profit organization operated primarily for educational purposes with a strong religious influence.

3. Imani Christian Academy was initially founded by

Petra International Ministries.

4. Imani Christian Academy is legally separate from

Petra International Ministries.

5. Imani Christian Academy currently receives no funding from Petra International Ministries.

6. Prior to January 6, 2010, Imani Christian Academy rented a facility from Petra ...


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