Sproulv.Unempl. Comp. Bd. of Review

Commonwealth Court of PennsylvaniaJul 25, 1974
14 Pa. Commw. 442 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. 1974)
14 Pa. Commw. 442322 A.2d 765

Argued June 6, 1974

July 25, 1974.

Unemployment compensation — Voluntary termination — Necessitous and compelling cause — Suitable employment — Unemployment Compensation Law, Act 1936, December 5, P. L. (1937) 2897 — Duty of Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

1. In determining whether an employe refused suitable work so as to disqualify him from receipt of unemployment compensation benefits or whether his refusal constituted a voluntary termination of employment for a necessitous and compelling cause, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review must make a meaningful inquiry and examine the employment offered in the light of the employe's past experience, training and remuneration and under the criteria established for suitable work by the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act 1936, December 5, P. L. (1937) 2897. [443-5]

Argued June 6, 1974, before Judges CRUMLISH, JR., KRAMER and BLATT, sitting as a panel of three.

Appeal, No. 1467 C.D. 1973, from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of William J. Sproul, Jr., No. N-119066.

Application to Bureau of Employment Security for unemployment compensation benefits. Application denied. Applicant appealed to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. Denial sustained. Applicant appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Held: Order vacated. Record remanded.

John M. Cleary, for appellant.

Sydney Reuben, Assistant Attorney General, with him Israel Packel, Attorney General, for appellee.

William J. Sproul, Jr., appeals here from a determination of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review denying him unemployment compensation upon the ground that his voluntary separation from work was "without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature" within the meaning of Section 402(b)(1) of the Unemployment Compensation Law, Act of December 5, 1936, Second Exec. Sess., P. L. (1937) 2897, as amended, 43 P. S. § 802 (b)(1). Claimant was last employed as a gear hobber or cutter at a weekly wage of $210.09 for Westinghouse Electric Company, where he had worked for over thirty-one years. Sometime before May 10, 1973, his last day of work, Westinghouse notified Claimant that his position was being phased-out and offered him, under a contractual "bumping right," a labor grade 3 job at an adjusted wage of $4.09 per hour. Claimant's prior position was a labor grade 10 job, described as a skilled machinist level, paying an adjusted hourly wage of $5.005. Claimant refused this offer due to the wage differential, and further declined to "bid" on labor grade 9 jobs paying 13 cents less per hour available through Westinghouse's voluntary transfer program, but rather elected to take early retirement effective July 1, 1973.

Based upon this factual background, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review found that "(c)ontinuing work was available to Claimant had he desired to remain employed," and thus concluded that he had terminated his employment without necessitous and compelling reason. Conspicuously missing from the Board's findings of fact or discussion of the case, however, is any consideration of the suitability of the jobs offered to Claimant in light of his prior experience, training and remuneration. Our Supreme Court held in Shay Unemployment Compensation Case, 424 Pa. 287, 227 A.2d 174 (1967), that the compensation authorities must explore and determine whether proffered employment is "suitable work" within the criteria of Section 4(t), 43 P. S. § 753(t), when considering if a voluntary termination is for necessitous and compelling cause under Section 402(b)(1). As this determination is critical to our review, we must reluctantly remand the record in this case to the Board for the necessary findings of fact and for the taking of additional testimony, if it deems necessary, to support this finding. See Hunt v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 8 Pa. Commw. 577, 302 A.2d 866 (1973).

We note, for the Board's guidance on remand, that under the facts of Shay Unemployment Compensation Case, supra, and our recent decisions in Bethlehem Steel Company v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 10 Pa. Commw. 292, 310 A.2d 697 (1973), and United States Steel Corporation v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 10 Pa. Commw. 295, 310 A.2d 94 (1973), it is clear that the offer of a labor grade 3 position to Claimant with a reduction in wage of 91 cents per hour is not suitable work. The labor grade 9 position, on the other hand, may well have constituted suitable work, but the findings of fact and supporting record must reveal a meaningful inquiry of the compatability of this employment opportunity with Claimant's previous experience, training, and the other criteria enumerated in Section 4(t).


AND NOW, July 25, 1974, the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review is vacated, and the record is remanded to the Board for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.