Adkins v. Gatson, No. 22308

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtCLECKLEY; BROTHERTON; MILLER
Citation192 W.Va. 561,453 S.E.2d 395
Parties, 97 Ed. Law Rep. 542 Sharon S. ADKINS, Appellant, v. Cathy S. GATSON, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County; The Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security, and The Raleigh County Board of Education, Appellees.
Decision Date21 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. 22308

Page 395

453 S.E.2d 395
192 W.Va. 561, 97 Ed. Law Rep. 542
Sharon S. ADKINS, Appellant,
v.
Cathy S. GATSON, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Kanawha
County; The Board of Review of the West Virginia
Department of Employment Security, and
The Raleigh County Board of
Education, Appellees.
No. 22308.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted Sept. 27, 1994.
Decided Dec. 21, 1994.

Page 397

[192 W.Va. 563]

Syllabus by the Court

1. W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b) (1987), prohibits unemployment benefits during the summer months for service personnel of an educational institution, if such individual performs services in the first academic year or term and is offered a contract or a reasonable assurance that such individual will perform services in any such capacity for any academic institution in the second term of such academic year.

2. Service personnel employed by an educational institution, who hold a second and separate contract covering the period between two successive academic terms, and who are not reemployed for a consecutive period under the second contract, may escape the prohibitions in W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b) (1987), and, thus, be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. To come within this exception, however, the claimant must prove the existence of an explicit and valid contract or some other definite behavior of the employer establishing a continuing contractual relationship.

3. The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security are entitled to substantial deference unless a reviewing court believes the findings are clearly wrong. If the question on review is one purely of law, no deference is given and the standard of judicial review by the court is de novo.

John Everett Roush, Charleston, for appellant.

Erwin L. Conrad, Conrad & Clay, Fayetteville, for appellee Raleigh County Bd. of Educ.

Robert M. Nunley, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for appellee Bd. of Review of West Virginia Dept. of Employment Sec.

CLECKLEY, Justice:

The appellant, Sharon S. Adkins, appeals from a decision of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County reversing the granting of unemployment compensation benefits to the appellant by the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security (Board of Review). The appellant filed a writ of certiorari requesting this Court reverse the decision of the circuit court and reinstate the decision of the Board of Review. The circuit court ruled there was insufficient evidence to support the appellant's claim to unemployment compensation benefits as a result of the failure of the Raleigh County Board of Education (Board of Education) to hire her during the summer of 1992. The denial of benefits was pursuant to W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b) (1987), which prohibits the payment of unemployment compensation benefits between academic years or terms if the individual applying for the benefits worked during the initial period and has a reasonable assurance of reemployment during the successive term. The appellant argues that this provision is inapplicable to her because she had a second separate job and contract covering the intervening period. We disagree, and we hold under the facts of this case that she has one employment contract. Thus, the circuit court correctly reversed the finding of the Board of Review. We further find that in the absence of substantial evidence of a second separate contract, W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b), is controlling, and the plaintiff is not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.

I.

FACTS

The hiring practice of the Board of Education was to employ a paint crew to work during the summer months. 1 In the summer of 1992, however, the Board elected not to follow past practice and did not hire a paint crew for the entire summer months. As a result, the appellant worked for the Board for only one week during the summer of 1992. Realizing that there would be no paint crew hired for the summer, the appellant applied for a position on the grass-cutting crew, but was not employed because of her lack of seniority. The appellant claims that

Page 398

[192 W.Va. 564] as a result of her lack of summer employment with the Board of Education, she suffered a loss of employment and a loss of wages during the summer of 1992.

The appellant filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits on or about July 13, 1992, but the claim was denied. Specifically, a deputy commissioner held: "Claimant eligible.... Claimant disqualified ...; ... has reasonable assurance of reemployment.... Disqualified from June 28, 1992 to August 22, 1992." The denial of benefits was based on W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b), which generally provides that benefits should not be paid to education employees between terms when there is a reasonable assurance of continued employment.

Following the denial, the appellant appealed the deputy commissioner's decision. On August 14, 1992, an evidentiary hearing was held before Carl Harris, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ issued an opinion on September 16, 1992, affirming the deputy commissioner's decision based on W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b). The ALJ also found that in the past the appellant received additional work in the summer which did not affect the laws that pertain to school employees and their entitlement to benefits during breaks in the school year or summer vacation.

On September 24, 1992, the appellant appealed the ALJ's decision to the Board of Review. By decision dated February 16, 1993, the Board of Review modified the decision of the ALJ and ruled the appellant was not disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits. The Board of Review found that ordinarily personnel such as the appellant are not entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits between two successive academic terms or years; "however, the record in this case reflects that the claimant has historically worked during the summertime with the ... employer." The Board of Review found the aforementioned Code section should be construed to allow the appellant to be eligible for unemployment benefits for her lack of work and lost wages.

The Board of Education appealed the Board of Review's decision to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. By final order entered February 9, 1994, the circuit court reversed the decision of the Board of Review and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. The appellant now appeals to this Court.

II.

DISCUSSION

W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b), prohibits the distribution of unemployment compensation benefits to educational employees between "two successive academic years or terms" if the employee works during the first term and has a reasonable assurance of reemployment during the successive term. 2 Service personnel employed by an educational institution, who hold a second and separate contract covering the period between two successive academic terms, and who are not reemployed for a consecutive period under the second contract, may escape the prohibitions in W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b), and, thus, be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. To come within this exception, however, the claimant must prove the existence of an explicit and valid contract or some other definite behavior of the employer establishing a continuing contractual relationship. Thus, the central issue in this case is whether the appellant, in light of her other job position, established a summertime employment relationship stemming from previous summer employment that could remove her from the statutory restrictions.

Our decisions have been constant that "unemployment compensation statutes should be liberally construed in favor of the

Page 399

[192 W.Va. 565] claimant[.]" Davenport v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 117, 119, 451 S.E.2d 57, 59 (1994); see also Mercer County Bd. of Educ. v. Gatson, 186 W.Va. 251, 412 S.E.2d 249 (1991); Courtney v. Rutledge, 177 W.Va. 232, 351 S.E.2d 419 (1986); London v. Board of Review of Dept. of Employment, 161 W.Va. 575, 244 S.E.2d 331 (1978). This "liberality" rule is not to be utilized when its application would require us to ignore the plain language of the statute. See Syllabus Point 3, Francis O. Day Co. v. Director, D.E.P., 191 W.Va. 134, 443 S.E.2d 602 (1994) (" ' "[w]here the language of a statute is clear and without ambiguity the plain meaning is to be accepted without resorting to the rules of interpretation." ' " (citations omitted)).

W.Va.Code, 21A-6-15(2)(b), prohibits the receipt of...

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70 practice notes
  • Burgess v. Porterfield, No. 22956
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 11, 1996
    ...subject to a de novo review."); Phillips v. Fox, 193 W.Va. 657, 661, 458 S.E.2d 327, 331 (1995). See also syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994) ("The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security are entitled to s......
  • Dailey v. Board of Review, No. 30730.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 10, 2003
    ...affirmed that determination. The Appellant now appeals to this Court. II. Standard of Review In syllabus point three of Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994), this Court explained the following standard of The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the [West Virginia Bu......
  • Conley v. Workers' Compensation Div., No. 23677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 20, 1997
    ...such findings, are subject to review by the courts." Conclusions of law are subject to de novo scrutiny. Syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994); Syl. pt. 1, Randolph County Board of Education v. Scalia, 182 W.Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d 524 (1989). Where the issue on an ......
  • Rhodes v. WORKERS'COMPENSATION DIV., No. 27831.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 11, 2000
    ...such findings, are subject to review by the courts." Conclusions of law are subject to de novo scrutiny. Syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994); Syl. pt. 1, Randolph County Board of Education v. Scalia, 182 W.Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d 524 (1989). Where the issue on an ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
70 cases
  • Burgess v. Porterfield, No. 22956
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 11, 1996
    ...subject to a de novo review."); Phillips v. Fox, 193 W.Va. 657, 661, 458 S.E.2d 327, 331 (1995). See also syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994) ("The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security are entitled to s......
  • Dailey v. Board of Review, No. 30730.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 10, 2003
    ...affirmed that determination. The Appellant now appeals to this Court. II. Standard of Review In syllabus point three of Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994), this Court explained the following standard of The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the [West Virginia Bu......
  • Conley v. Workers' Compensation Div., No. 23677
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 20, 1997
    ...such findings, are subject to review by the courts." Conclusions of law are subject to de novo scrutiny. Syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994); Syl. pt. 1, Randolph County Board of Education v. Scalia, 182 W.Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d 524 (1989). Where the issue on an ......
  • Rhodes v. WORKERS'COMPENSATION DIV., No. 27831.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 11, 2000
    ...such findings, are subject to review by the courts." Conclusions of law are subject to de novo scrutiny. Syl. pt. 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994); Syl. pt. 1, Randolph County Board of Education v. Scalia, 182 W.Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d 524 (1989). Where the issue on an ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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