Submitted: August 2, 2013
BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge,
ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN SENIOR JUDGE
Bell Socialization Services, Inc. (Employer) petitions for review of the March 11, 2013, order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR) affirming a referee's decision to grant Shamela D. Hightower (Claimant) unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. We affirm.
Claimant worked full-time as a residential service provider for Employer from June 14, 2011, through July 13, 2012, earning $9.00 per hour. Employer required Claimant to have reliable transportation as a condition of her employment. When hired, Claimant possessed her own vehicle, but it eventually failed mechanically. Claimant drove her mother's car until January 19, 2012, when an accident rendered the car inoperable. (UCBR's Findings of Fact, Nos. 1-4.)
On May 15, 2012, Employer demanded that Claimant have reliable transportation by July 15, 2012. Claimant did not have sufficient income to fix her car or finance a new car. Claimant did not obtain a vehicle by the deadline. On July 16, 2012, Employer discharged Claimant because she did not have a vehicle. (Id., Nos. 5, 6, 9, 10.)
Claimant applied for UC benefits with the local service center, which granted benefits. Employer appealed this determination to a referee. The referee held a hearing on November 30, 2012, and affirmed the local service center's decision.
Employer appealed to the UCBR. On March 11, 2013, the UCBR affirmed the referee's decision, incorporating the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law in their entirety. Employer now petitions this court for review.
Employer argues that Claimant engaged in willful misconduct by violating a work rule without good cause and is, therefore, ineligible for UC benefits under section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law). We disagree.
"Willful misconduct has been defined as: (1) a wanton and willful disregard of the employer's interests; (2) a deliberate violation of the employer's rules; (3) a disregard of the standards of behavior that an employer rightfully can expect from its employees; or (4) negligence that manifests culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design, or an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or the employee's duties and obligations." Adams v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 56 A.3d 76, 78 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2012). Where an employer bases a claim of willful misconduct on the violation of a work rule, the employer must prove: (1) the existence of the work rule, (2) the reasonableness of the rule, (3) the claimant's awareness of the rule, and (4) that the employee violated the rule. Id. at 79.
If an employer proves a work-rule violation, the burden of proof shifts to the employee to prove that she had good cause for her actions. Chapman v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 20 A.3d 603, 607 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011). "The employee establishes good cause where her actions are justified or reasonable under the circumstances." Id. To determine good cause we must look to the employee's reason for non-compliance and "evaluate the reasonableness of the [employer's] request in light of all of the circumstances." LeGare v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 498 Pa. 72, 77, 444 A.2d 1151, 1153 (1982).
Here, Employer had a work rule requiring employees in Claimant's position to have reliable transportation. (UCBR's Findings of Fact, No. 2; N.T. at 6.) Moreover, the work rule was reasonable because employees in Claimant's position provided clients with transportation to doctors' appointments and other events. (N.T. at 8.) Claimant knew of the work rule when she took the position and understood that she had until July 15, 2012, to procure a vehicle. (Id. at 8-9.) Thus, our inquiry turns to whether Claimant had good cause, i.e., whether Claimant's failure to secure a vehicle was reasonable and justifiable under the circumstances.
Employer analogizes the present case with Anderson Equipment Company v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 994 A.2d 1192 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010). In Anderson, an employee did not pay a $240 fee to initiate his union membership. Id. at 1194. The union calculated dues based on the employee's salary, and the employee had three months to save enough money to pay the dues. Id. This court found that the employee did not have good cause for nonpayment because the employee's failure to save enough money to pay the dues was unreasonable. Id. at 1195.
Here, however, Claimant faced a greater expense than $240 while earning significantly less. Moreover, the employee in Anderson knew of the expense when he accepted the position, whereas ...