Fired over not using Baden school radios, janitor can't collect unemployment

By Elizabeth Alt | May 7, 2018

HARRISBURG – A woman fired from her job as a janitor for a Pennsylvania school lost her appeal of a decision to deny her unemployment claim due to willful misconduct.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision by Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Board of Review that the plaintiff was not eligible for unemployment under the Unemployment Compensation Law because she was terminated for willful misconduct. The court issued the ruling against Patricia Miller on April 16, with Senior Judge James Gardner Colins writing the opinion and judges Renee Jubelirer and Patricia McCullough concurring.

“We find substantial evidence to support the board’s determination that claimant was discharged from her employment for willful misconduct by repeatedly refusing to comply with employer’s reasonable directive without good cause,” Colins wrote.

Miller was hired by Lincoln Learning Solutions and placed as a custodian for the Baden Academy Charter School. Miller was fired in February 2017 and filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Department of Labor. In April of 2017 the department sent Miller a letter notifying her that her claim was denied, and she was ineligible for benefits.

Miller appealed the decision, and a hearing was held in May 2017. A referee found that Miller “failed to offer any testimony or evidence to show that she had good cause for her continuing failure to follow employer’s directive regarding the use of radios and concluding that claimant was ineligible for unemployment compensation." Lincoln had two supervisors and a fellow custodian testify at the hearing.

Miller appealed the referee’s decision, and the board affirmed the order, finding that Miller had been told several times by supervisors not to use Baden’s school radios yet she continued to do so.

Miller appealed the board decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, arguing that Lincoln never showed or proved there was a rule or policy discussed with her that she violated. Miller also contends that she was not warned she could be fired for using Baden’s radios instead of the ones Lincoln provided.

Colins stated in the opinion that an employer does not need to have a written policy to enforce a rule, and that a verbal instruction can suffice. “Claimant has offered no reason whatsoever to justify the use of the Baden School radios," Colins noted, adding that Lincoln had provided credible evidence that Miller was warned multiple times and was “argumentative” when approached about using the incorrect radio.

“Questions of credibility and the resolution of evidentiary conflicts are within the sound discretion of the board, its determinations are not subject to re-evaluation on our review, and we will not do so here.”

In the Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, case number 1244 C.D. 2017

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