HARRISBURG — The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed an Unemployment Compensation Board of Review decision that denied a former Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries employee’s request for payment of unemployment benefits after she was fired for allegedly falsifying mileage reimbursement requests, according to an opinion filed on March 13.
The court said claimant Dana A. Crall worked as a full-time counselor for Diakon Lutheran from July 3, 2011, to July 9, 2015, “when she was suspended pending an investigation and subsequently discharged on July 15, 2015.”
The opinion said Crall denied on her unemployment compensation application that she falsified her mileage reimbursement forms.
However, the court said the Altoona UC Service Center “found that claimant was ineligible for benefits… concluding that [the] employer met its burden of proving that [the] claimant’s actions in falsifying her mileage traveled constituted willful misconduct and that [the] claimant did not show good cause for her actions.”
In support of her appeal to a Unemployment Compensation Board referee, the court said Crall argued that “she followed the employer’s rules and performed her work duties to the best of her ability.”
“The referee did not credit [the] claimant’s testimony that she reported her mileage correctly,” the Commonwealth court said in its ruling. “[The] claimant’s reported miles should have been approximately 35 miles less than... [the] employer’s calculations, and in some instances, [the] claimant’s miles exceeded [the] employer’s calculations by over 100 miles.”
In her appeal, Crall claimed that “the referee erred by improperly overruling her repeated hearsay objections to the testimony of [the] employer’s witnesses because [the] employer did not present any competent evidence to support... [its] own calculations, obtained via MapQuest, of [the] claimant’s mileage or that [the] claimant’s mileage was inaccurate or falsified.”
The board disagreed with Crall’s arguments. According to the court’s opinion, the board pointed out that Diakon Lutheran’s mileage reimbursement policy allows employees to calculate their mileage based on odometer readings or Mapquest mileage information, and that “the claimant was or should have been aware of the employer’s policy.”
Since Crall’s and Diakon Lutheran’s mileage totals did not match, the board noted that “the employer also tried different routes to try to make sense of the claimant’s numbers,” according to the order.
The Commonwealth Court said in its appeal ruling that “the board did not err in finding [the] claimant ineligible for benefits.”
The court said the board’s unemployment benefit denial was correct because, despite the fact that Diakon Lutheran explained to Crall where she was making mistakes in filling out the mileage reimbursement form, she “disregarded [the] employer’s interests by misrepresenting her mileage traveled on her expense forms.”