Laurie CLAFLIN v. DIRECTOR, Arkansas
Employment Security Department
___ S.W.2d ___
Court of Appeals of Arkansas
Opinion delivered April 24, 1996
1. Unemployment compensation -- determination whether good cause
existed for employee to quit his job question of fact --
determining sufficiency of evidence on review. -- Whether
there was good cause for an employee to quit his job is a
question of fact; in determining the sufficiency of the
evidence to sustain the findings of the Board of Review, the
court reviews the evidence and all reasonable inferences
deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the Board's
findings and affirms if they are supported by substantial
evidence; even when there is evidence upon which the Board
might have reached a different decision, the scope of judicial
review is limited to a determination of whether the Board
could reasonably reach its decision upon the evidence before
2. Unemployment compensation -- factors involved in determining
whether "good cause" existed for employee to quit. -- "Good
cause" depends not only on the good faith of the employee
involved (which includes the presence of a genuine desire to
work and be self-supporting), but also on the reaction of theaverage employee; another element of "good cause" is whether
the employee took appropriate steps to rectify the problem.
3. Unemployment compensation -- appellant lacked good cause for
quitting her job -- Board's finding supported by substantial
evidence. -- Where the Board based its finding that the
appellant lacked good cause for quitting on the appellant's
failure to make further inquiries concerning her decrease in
hours, it was significant that appellant's supervisor
originally informed her that the reduction in work hours was
something that the employer wanted to "try," and that it was
the employer's intention to move the appellant back to full-time employment after the week of half-time work; the Board's
finding that the appellant quit without good cause connected
with the work was supported by substantial evidence.
Appeal from Arkansas Board of Review; affirmed.
No briefs filed.
James R. Cooper, Judge.
April 24, 1996
LAURIE CLAFLIN APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS
APPELLANT BOARD OF REVIEW
DIRECTOR, ARKANSAS AFFIRMED
EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT
James R. Cooper, Judge.
The appellant in this unemployment compensation case was
employed by Leather Brothers, Inc., buckling dog collars. After
the appellant had been so employed for approximately one and one-half years, her foreman advised her that her hours would be reduced
to half time. The appellant worked eleven and one-half hours the
following week and, after the conclusion of her last work day,
informed her foreman that she had located a full-time job and was
quitting. Subsequently, she filed a claim for unemployment
benefits which the Board of Review denied on the ground that she
had quit her last work without good cause connected with the work.
From that decision, comes this appeal.
For reversal, the appellant contends that the Board erred in
finding that she quit her last job without good cause connectedwith the work.See footnote 1 We affirm.
Whether there was good cause for an employee to quit his job
is a question of fact. Morton v. Director, 22 Ark. App. 281, 742
S.W.2d 118 (1987). In determining the sufficiency of the evidence
to sustain the findings of the Board of Review, we review the
evidence and all reasonable inferences deducible therefrom in the
light most favorable to the Board's findings and affirm if they are
supported by substantial evidence. Perdrix-Wang v. Director, 42
Ark. App. 218, 856 S.W.2d 636 (1993). Even when there is evidence
upon which the Board might have reached a different decision, the
scope of our judicial review is limited to a determination of
whether the Board could reasonably reach its decision upon the
evidence before it. Id.
In the case at bar, the Board based its finding that the
appellant lacked good cause for quitting on the appellant's failure
to make further inquiries concerning her decrease in hours. In
this context we think it significant that the appellant's
supervisor originally informed her that the reduction in work hours
was something that the employer wanted to "try," and that it was
the employer's intention to move the appellant back to full-time
employment after the week of half-time work.
"Good cause" depends not only on the good faith of the
employee involved (which includes the presence of a genuine desire
to work and be self-supporting), but also on the reaction of theaverage employee. Perdrix-Wang v. Director, supra; see McEwen v.
Everett, 6 Ark. App. 32, 637 S.W.2d 617 (1982). Another element of
"good cause" is whether the employee took appropriate steps to
rectify the problem. McEwen v. Everett, supra. Given these
considerations, we cannot say that the Commission's finding that
the appellant quit without good cause connected with the work is
not supported by substantial evidence.
Pittman and Robbins, JJ., agree.
Rogers, Stroud, and Griffen, JJ., dissent.
April 24, 1996
LAURIE CLAFLIN AN APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS
APPELLANT BOARD OF REVIEW
PHIL PRICE, DIRECTOR
EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT,
AND LEATHER BROTHERS INC.
APPELLEES DISSENTING OPINION
Wendell L. Griffen, Judge.
I dissent from the decision to affirm the Board of Review
because I cannot agree that fair-minded persons faced with the
evidence in this case could decide that Laurie Claflin voluntarily
left her job without good cause connected with the work. The only
proof is that Claflin left her job after the employer reduced her
work hours to half time, and failed to indicate whether she would
ever be returned to full-time duty. She worked the half-time
schedule, found other full time employment, and told her foreman
that she was quitting to take the full-time position. That was
when the foreman told her that she could return to full-time duty.
Because I am convinced that Claflin's conduct was wholly consistent
with what any other reasonable and able-bodied worker would have
done, and because I do not accept the view stated in the majority
opinion that a worker in Claflin's position owes the employer aduty to track down unidentified management personnel superior to
her foreman to obtain relief from a job decision that has caused
economic injury, I write this dissenting opinion.
The Board of Review held that Claflin was disqualified from
receiving unemployment benefits because she voluntarily left her
job with Leather Brothers Inc., without good cause connected with
the work. Arkansas Code Annotated § 11-10-513 (Repl. 1987) states,
in pertinent part:
(a)(1) If so found by the director, an individual shall be
disqualified for benefits if he, voluntarily and without good
cause connected with the work, left his last work.
(2) The disqualification shall continue until, subsequent to
filing a claim, he has had at least thirty (30) days of
employment covered by an unemployment compensation law of this
state, another state, or the United States.
The term "good cause" means a justifiable reason for not accepting
the particular job offered. To constitute good cause, the reason
for refusal must not be arbitrary or capricious, and the reason
must be connected with the work itself. The question of what is
good cause must be determined in the light of the facts in each
case. Wacaster v. Daniels, 270 Ark. 190, 603 S.W.2d 907 (1980).
Although benefits will be denied an employee who leaves employment
for general economic reasons not connected with some specific
alleged unfairness perpetrated by her employer, where the employer
does an act that does economic injury to the employee that act may
be good cause connected with the work within the meaning of the
statute. Jackson v. Daniels, 269 Ark. 714, 600 S.W.2d 426 (1980).
And while allegations of substantial decrease in wages may be
considered as good cause for voluntary departure from employment,complaints based primarily upon economic conditions beyond the
control of the employer do not fit the statutory exemption from
disqualification. Armstrong v. Daniels, 270 Ark. 303, 603 S.W.2d
481 (1980). We reaffirmed our view on this statute in Perdrix-Wang
v. Director, State Emp. Sec. Dep't, 42 Ark. App. 218, 856 S.W.2d
636 (1993), when we observed that good cause means a cause that
would reasonably impel the average able-bodied qualified worker to
give up employment.
At the October 11, 1994, hearing before the appeals referee,
Claflin admitted quitting her job with Leather Brothers after
having worked there for two months through a temporary services
agency, and for another year and several months as a direct
employee. Claflin testified that her foreman told her that her
work hours would be reduced to half-days because the employer had
decided to try doing so. She worked a week under the half-day
arrangement before accepting a full-time job for a different
employer. Until she accepted the full-time job, nobody from
Leather Brothers had informed her that she would be returned to
full-time duty, or when that might happen, if it happened. On the
day that Claflin quit the job, she finished her half-day schedule
and waited for twenty minutes to talk with the foreman and tell him
that she was quitting. Only then did the foreman tell her that she
could return to full-time work.
Jo Ann Robinette, Office Administrator for the employer,
admitted that the employer had been changing its factory due to
fluctuations in orders, and suggested that Claflin's foreman hadcontemplated relocating her to another work station to provide
additional working hours. Robinette conceded that the foreman
should have told Claflin that the employer intended to return her
to full-time work the following week; nevertheless, there is no
proof that the foreman or anybody else did so.
The Board of Review reasoned that Claflin lacked good cause
connected with the work for quitting because she did not consult a
higher manager than her foreman before quitting. There was no
reason for Claflin to seek an audience from anybody else, however,
when the person that the employer appointed to supervise her work
and schedule her working hours had already told her that she was
assigned to half-time work because the employer wanted to try that
arrangement. Employees should be able to reasonably rely on the
people that their employers employ as their supervisors to honestly
and accurately communicate information as fundamental as when
people will work, and for how long they will work each day. Here
the undisputed proof is that Claflin was never told that the new
work schedule was only temporary, and had no reason to expect to
return to work full-time until after she had already sought, found,
and told her foreman that she had accepted a full-time job
elsewhere. The average able-bodied and qualified worker would have
done precisely what Claflin did -- try to find full-time work
elsewhere -- when faced with the prospect of being a half-time
worker for an indefinite period of time.
The likely impact of the reasoning adopted by the majority
opinion will be that employers who make decisions causing economicharm to their workers will cause those workers to be denied
unemployment benefits because the workers somehow fail to protest
the decision to the right management official. If that is the
meaning of "good cause," none of our previous cases have suggested
it. The employer in this case certainly produced no evidence that
makes this new standard sensible, because there is no proof that
the employer identified any type of appeal or grievance procedure
that someone in Claflin's position would have known was available.
There is no proof that the employer even identified anybody to whom
Claflin could have appealed, assuming she had known that an appeal
of her half-time work assignment was possible. There is no proof
that anybody in management even knew that the appeal process that
the majority reasons Claflin ought to have attempted was possible.
Nevertheless, today our court has decided that Claflin and all
other similarly situated workers must somehow invent for themselves
an ad hoc appeals process from the various economically harmful job
decisions that their employers unilaterally make. The workers must
select the persons to whom the appeals shall lie. The workers must
determine the time span in which to effect the appeals. They must
do these things despite having no authority or responsibility for
the initial decisions that produce their economic injury, and
despite having no ability to correct or otherwise adjust the
effects of that injury. Meanwhile, employers may act to the
economic peril of their workers without any accountability for
instituting the very grievance or appeal procedure that the
majority reasons that Claflin should have pursued, without tellingthe employees that there is a right to appeal, and without even
identifying the person or persons to whom any appeal shall be
The decision announced today certainly will not inspire an
employer to institute an appeal process because there is no
sanction for failing to do so. The workers will suffer if no
process is instituted, if a process does not work properly, and if
they somehow misjudge who in management is responsible for deciding
whether past decisions that cause economic harm will be reversed or
otherwise adjusted. It is difficult to imagine a more unjust and
unreasonable result, or one having less of a factual basis.
Hopefully, Claflin will petition the Supreme Court of Arkansas
to review the decision reached in her case. If the Supreme Court
grants the petition for review, and reverses the result reached by
our court, workers will be spared the hardships and unfairness that
will otherwise flow from the decision we have made. If not, one
shudders to think what our decision will mean for the workers who,
like Claflin, are innocent of any misconduct related to their work,
and are innocent and helpless bystanders to management decisions to
change work schedules, close plants, reduce the number of people in
a workforce, and the other decisions that can cause them economic
injury. Meanwhile, our decision means that those workers will not
be able to recover unemployment benefits unless they engage in the
foreseeably futile exercise of hunting -- and finding -- some
unidentified management official who might be able to provide
relief that only management can give, but which only workers arenow obligated to create.
This result is unfounded, unreasonable, and unjust. I
Rogers and Stroud, JJ., join in this opinion.
Footnote: 1Arkansas Code Annotated § 11-10-513 (1987) provides that an
employee who left his last work voluntarily and without good cause
connected with the work shall be disqualified for benefits.