Lorraine A. Laster, Petitioner
Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Respondent
Submitted: September 20, 2013
BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge
ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge
Lorraine A. Laster (Claimant) petitions for review of the January 7, 2013, order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR) affirming the decision of a referee to deny Claimant unemployment benefits. The UCBR determined that Claimant was ineligible for benefits under section 402(e) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law) because she was discharged from work for willful misconduct. As explained more fully below, we reverse the UCBR's November 9, 2012, order granting reconsideration, vacate the UCBR's January 7, 2013, order, and reinstate the UCBR's October 12, 2012, order.
Claimant was a program director for Sarah Heinz House Association (Employer) from September 1, 2011, through March 30, 2012. (UCBR's Decision, 1/7/13, Findings of Fact, No. 1.) Employer is a youth development organization associated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. (Id., No. 2.) Throughout Claimant's employment, Employer had concerns about Claimant's job performance, including that: Claimant spent too much time in her office; Claimant did not support other staff members and volunteers; and girls were late for co-ed events on two occasions. (Id., Nos. 3-4.) Claimant disagreed with Employer's policy that a girl had to dance with any boy who asked her at co-ed events. (Id., No. 5.) Claimant also consistently had strained relationships with her supervisors. (Id., No. 6.)
Claimant requested a meeting with Employer's Executive Director, Stanley Pittman, to discuss her job performance. Claimant left the meeting believing that her job was in jeopardy. (Id., Nos. 7-8.) In March 2012, during Claimant's mid-year performance review, one of her supervisors, Valerie Singleton, made a comment that Claimant believed was untrue. (Id., Nos. 9-10.) Claimant responded, in an agitated tone of voice, "I'm not calling you a liar, but that is a lie." (Id., No. 11.) Another supervisor, Charles Chmura, was present at this meeting. Employer discharged Claimant on March 30, 2012, because it believed that Claimant had irreparably damaged her relationship with her supervisor. (Id., No. 12.)
Claimant filed a claim for unemployment benefits, which the local service center denied. Claimant appealed to the referee, who held evidentiary hearings on June 27 and July 13, 2012. The referee concluded that Claimant was ineligible for benefits because she was discharged for willful misconduct under section 402(e) of the Law.
Claimant timely appealed to the UCBR. By order dated October 12, 2012, the UCBR determined that although Employer had the right to discharge Claimant, Claimant's statement to her supervisor that the supervisor was lying was not willful misconduct. (UCBR's Decision, 10/12/12, at 3.) The UCBR explained:
The claimant may not have used the most appropriate language by spontaneously saying that it was a lie. The employer may have had reason to determine that the claimant could no longer work with her supervisor. However, the claimant's comment was not so egregious as to rise to the level of disqualifying willful misconduct.
(Id. at 2.) Therefore, the UCBR reversed the referee's decision and awarded Claimant benefits.
By letter dated October 26, 2012, Employer requested reconsideration of the UCBR's decision. In the five-page letter, Employer objected to Claimant's petition for appeal to the UCBR, claiming that it was improperly filed by a different counsel than was present at the referee's hearing and that it was replete with inaccurate and misleading statements. (Employer's Reconsideration Letter, 10/26/12, at 1.) Employer also outlined numerous "inaccuracies" in the UCBR's findings of fact and offered Employer's "corrected" version of the facts. (Id. at 2-5.)
By order dated November 9, 2012, the UCBR granted Employer's request for reconsideration and vacated its prior order. The UCBR did not state any reason for granting reconsideration and did not take any additional evidence. On January 7, 2013, the UCBR entered a new order affirming the referee's denial of benefits under section 402(e) of the Law. The UCBR concluded:
The claimant stated the supervisor was lying. At that point, the employer had reason to determine that the claimant could no longer work with her supervisor. However she phrased it, the claimant accused her supervisor of lying at a meeting with the ...