Ligonier Law must pay unemployment to disabled ex-legal assistant

By Dee Thompson | Dec 21, 2017

HARRISBURG – A disabled legal assistant has been awarded unemployment compensation by the Commonwealth Court, which affirmed the award of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review after finding her termination was not voluntary.

The Commonwealth Court determined Dec. 11  she was not terminated for willful misconduct, but only because she could not work full time.

The opinion states that Ligonier Law employed Joslin M. Bennet as a legal assistant in November 2015. However, Bennet is disabled (she is a bilateral leg amputee receiving Medical Assistance Benefits for Workers with Disabilities) and found that full-time work jeopardized her eligibility for disability benefits. 

Ligonier let Bennet cut her hours to 15 per week in January 2016 at Bennet's request. 

As explained in the memorandum opinion, “Employer subsequently found that the part-time schedule did not allow enough time for claimant to complete necessary office work. On July 26, 2016, employer discharged claimant so that it could replace her with a full-time legal assistant. Employer paid claimant her salary through Aug. 31, 2016.”

Bennet applied for unemployment compensation, and it was awarded. A hearing was held and Bennet did not appear. Benefits were withdrawn because Ligonier Law argued that Bennet quit the position. 

Bennet said later she wrote down the wrong date, but that was not sufficient to get a new hearing.

In affirming the award of benefits as ordered by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Judge Michael Wojcik noted that “Here, there was a conflict regarding whether claimant voluntarily quit or was discharged from her employment. Once the board determined that claimant did not voluntarily quit, the board properly considered whether employer discharged claimant for willful misconduct. ... Employer readily concedes it did not terminate claimant’s employment for willful misconduct. Thus, the board did not err in determining claimant was not ineligible for benefits under Section 402(e)."

Also hearing the case were judges Mary Hannah Leavitt James Gardner Colins.

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