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Beverly Hall Corp. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

December 15, 2014

Beverly Hall Corporation, Petitioner
v.
Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Respondent

Argued June 18, 2014

Appealed from No. B-561448. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

John M. Heley, Quakertown, for petitioner.

Judith M. Gilroy, Assistant Counsel, Harrisburg, for respondent.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

Page 830

PELLEGRINI, PRESIDENT JUDGE

Beverly Hall Corporation (Employer or BHC) petitions for review of an order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) overturning the Referee's denial of unemployment compensation benefits due to the Board's finding tat BHC is not operated primarily for religious purposes and, therefore, that Denise L. Amos (Claimant) was not ineligible for benefits under Section 404(l)(4)(8)(a)(ii) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Law).[1] For the following reasons, we affirm.

I.

Claimant was employed as the manager of the Beatrice Franklin Biodynamic Farm (Farm) until May 2013. Following her separation, she filed a claim for benefits which the Unemployment Compensation Service Center (Service Center) denied, finding that Claimant failed to establish her financial eligibility for benefits under Section 404 of the Law, 43 P.S. § 753.

II.

At the hearing before the Referee,[2] Michael Ostrowski, the Department's representative,

Page 831

testified telephonically that the Service Center found Claimant financially ineligible for benefits because the purported Employer, BHC, was a religious organization which did not elect coverage and, therefore, Claimant's employment was excluded pursuant to Section 404(l)(4)(8)(a)(ii) of the Law, 43 P.S. § 753(l)(4)(8)(a)(ii). In determining whether BHC constituted a religious organization, Ostrowski stated that he researched the corporation's purpose and whether it was required to report its employees' gross wages.

In support of her appeal, Claimant testified that she was employed by BHC as the Farm manager, through which she oversaw Farm operations and employees. She stated that although BHC was associated with the Church of Illumination (Church) at which members of the Rosicrucian Fraternity (Fraternity) worship, none of her job responsibilities were related to the Fraternity and she never believed that she was working for the Church. She explained that although she became a member of the Fraternity in 2009 or 2010, not all BHC employees are members. She described the Farm as a one-acre property on which she maintained organic vegetable gardens for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and raised chickens. Specifically, she explained, " We grew vegetables, and people would purchase a share, and we would supply them with their vegetables every Friday, when possible." (Reproduced Record [R.R.] at 16a.) She stated that members of the ...


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