COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

 

 

 Present:  Chief Judge Fitzpatrick, Judges Willis and Bumgardner

 Argued at Salem, Virginia

 

 

 VIRGINIA EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION


    OPINION BY

 v.           Record No. 1181-98-3    JUDGE JERE M. H. WILLIS, JR.


       JANUARY 19, 1999

 HERBERT R. DAVENPORT

 

 

            FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF WASHINGTON COUNTY

  Charles H. Smith, Jr., Judge

 

           James W. Osborne, Assistant Attorney General

           (Mark L. Earley, Attorney General, on

           briefs), for appellant.

 

           David L. Scyphers (Scyphers & Austin, P.C.,

           on brief), for appellee.

 

 

      The Virginia Employment Commission (the Commission) contends

 that the trial court erred in awarding unemployment benefits to

 Herbert R. Davenport.  We agree and reverse the judgment of the

 trial court.

         I.  BACKGROUND

      Learning that the plant at which he worked was scheduled to

 close, Davenport filed for unemployment benefits, effective

 September 17, 1995.  Pursuant to Code  60.2-614, he listed as

 his thirty-day employer Westinghouse Corporation, for which he

 had worked from May 1, 1985 to September 15, 1995.  During this

 term of employment, Davenport's work week consisted of five seven

 and one-half hour days.  The Commission approved this claim and

 awarded Davenport unemployment benefits for a benefit year that

 ended September 14, 1996.  That claim and award are not at issue

 in this appeal.

                After the filing of his 1995 claim, Davenport was retained

 by Westinghouse as a temporary employee.  His work week consisted

 of four nine and one-half hour days.  From September 17, 1995, to

 the final closing of the plant on October 26, 1995, Davenport

 worked twenty-four such days.

      After the plant finally closed, Davenport filed for

 unemployment benefits for a benefit year commencing September 15,

 1996.  He listed Westinghouse as his thirty-day employer and

 listed his employment term as April 12, 1991 to October 26, 1995. 

 The employment term relevant to this claim's qualification under

 Code  60.2-614 is the period from September 17, 1995 to October

 26, 1995.

 II.  THE THIRTY-DAY REQUIREMENT

      Code  60.2-614, as in effect at the time of Davenport's

 claim, stated:

           No individual may receive benefits in a

           benefit year unless, subsequent to the

           beginning of the immediately preceding

           benefit year during which he received

           benefits, he performed service for an

           employer as defined in [Code]  60.2-210 for

           remuneration during thirty days, whether or

           not such days were consecutive, and

           subsequently became totally or partially

           separated from such employment.

 (Emphasis added).  The Commission denied Davenport's claim,

 ruling that he failed to satisfy the thirty-day work requirement. 

 It held that the term "during thirty days" denoted not a period

 of time but a number of days.  The trial court reversed the

 ruling of the Commission, holding

           [Davenport] did perform services for which he

           received remuneration while thirty days was

           going on, or over the course of thirty days,

           or throughout the duration of thirty

           days. . . . [T]hat is all the Code requires.

 

         III.  ANALYSIS

      Davenport contends that the term "during thirty days"

 denotes a time period, not a number of days.  He argues that the

 Commission's interpretation of this term could produce

 unreasonable results.  He notes that an employee who worked but a

 brief time on each of thirty days would thereby satisfy the

 Commission's interpretation.  He notes further that a shift that

 began at 11:00 p.m. and ended 7:00 a.m. the following day would

 encompass two days under the Commission's interpretation.  We

 note that under Davenport's interpretation, a brief period of

 work on the first and last days of any month except February

 would satisfy the statute.  We perceive no need to indulge such

 speculations.  Our task is to apply the statute as it is written,

 gleaning from its terms the legislative intent.  If the

 application of the statute produces questionable results in

 particular cases, that is a matter of legislative, not judicial,

 concern.

      "A primary rule of statutory construction is that courts

 must look first to the language of the statute.  If a statute is

 clear and unambiguous, a court will give the statute its plain

 meaning."  Loudoun County Department of Social Services v.

 Etzold, 245 Va. 80, 84, 425 S.E.2d 800, 802 (1993).  The

 Commission properly interpreted the statute by following its

 plain meaning.  To be eligible for benefits, a claimant must have

 performed services for an employer for a minimum of thirty days

 during the relevant time period.  That the legislature intended

 the term "during thirty days" to define a number of days, not a

 period of time, is verified by the legislative inclusion of the

 clause "whether or not such days were consecutive."  Davenport

 worked only twenty-four days.  Thus, he did not satisfy the

 statutory requirement.

      The Commission has consistently interpreted Code  60.2-614

 to require thirty days of service.  The Commission has given the

 same interpretation to Code  60.2-618, which also contains the

 thirty-day requirement.  "It is well settled that where the

 construction of a statute has been uniform for many years in

 administrative practice, and has been acquiesced in by the

 General Assembly, such construction is entitled to great weight

 with the courts."  Virginia Employment Commission v. Nunery, 24

 Va. App. 617, 626, 484 S.E.2d 609, 614 (1997).

      Noting that during his term of regular employment, he worked

 seven and one-half hour days, Davenport argues that the

 twenty-four nine and one-half hour days that he worked more than

 equaled the commitment of time that would have been involved had

 he worked thirty seven and one-half hour days.  We find this

 argument unpersuasive.  The statute, as it applies to Davenport's

 claim, employs days, not hours, as units of computation. 

 Furthermore, when the legislature chose, in the 1997 amendment,

 to employ an hourly criterion, it set the threshold at 240 hours. 

 Even were that amended standard applied to this case, the 228

 hours worked by Davenport would be insufficient.

      The judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the

 decision of the Commission is reinstated.


  Reversed