Courtney v. Rutledge

Decision Date09 December 1986
Docket NumberNo. 17052,17052
Citation177 W.Va. 232,351 S.E.2d 419
Parties. Phyllis J. RUTLEDGE, etc., et al. Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

"Findings of fact by the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security, in an unemployment compensation case, should not be set aside unless such findings are plainly wrong; however, the plainly wrong doctrine does not apply to conclusions of law by the Board of Review." Syl. pt. 1, Kisamore v. Rutledge, --- W.Va. ----, 276 S.E.2d 821 (1981).

Richard L. Withers, Hickok, Withers & Zerbe, Charleston, for appellant.

Larry Blalock, Charles M. Surber, Jr., and Albert F. Sebok, Jackson, Kelly, Holt & O'Farrell, Jack O. Friedman, W.Va. Dept. of Employment Sec., Charleston, for appellee.


This is an appeal by way of certiorari 1 from a final order of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County which affirmed the decision of the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security indefinitely disqualifying the appellant, David Courtney, from receiving unemployment compensation benefits based upon a determination that he was discharged from his employment for gross misconduct.

The facts of the case show that the appellant began working at Union Carbide Corporation on February 16, 1970. He was employed as a laborer and production operator until October of 1972 when he obtained other employment. He returned to Union Carbide on October 22, 1973 as an operating technician and worked until he was discharged on January 28, 1983. The precipitating incident behind appellant's discharge occurred on January 10, 1983, when he was assigned to work on the Phosphates Pesticides Project. The appellant's assignment was to operate a pump and feed material into a reactor at a certain rate and although there is a dispute about what caused it to happen, the material was fed much too quickly. The material was to be fed at the rate of one pound per minute and it is undisputed that actually 61.9 pounds of material went into the vat within ten to fifteen minutes.

At a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, Union Carbide presented evidence that the appellant was given both verbal and written instructions about how to feed the material and the appellant admitted that he was told to feed the material at a slow rate by his supervisor, Glen Graham and was given a wrist watch to use as a timer. He denied, however, that he was even given written instructions on how to feed the material and testified that he was told only to maintain the temperature of the material in the vat and to keep a certain pump setting. The appellant's explanation for the misfeeding of the material was that a faulty check valve had stuck in an open position and allowed the material to siphon through without the use of the pump which normally would control the flow rate. The appellant was discharged on January 28, 1983 in a letter that indicated the following reasons for his dismissal: unwillingness to perform work assignments in a satisfactory manner; failure to cooperate with supervision and technical clients; disruptive behavior toward co-workers; failure to follow directions as well as written and verbal instructions; and poor attitude about Union Carbide policies and work rules.

After his discharge, the appellant applied for unemployment compensation with the West Virginia Department of Employment Security. On March 21, 1983, the Deputy found that the appellant had been discharged "but not for misconduct" thereby making him eligible and not disqualified from receiving benefits.

Union Carbide appealed the Deputy's decision and evidentiary hearings were held. Following the hearings, the Administrative Law Judge reversed the Deputy's decision and found the appellant eligible for benefits but disqualified because he was discharged for gross misconduct, i.e., the appellant was discharged for feeding the material into the vat too quickly and disregarding the employer's instructions: "Therefore, since this was of a violation of the responsibility of the claimant, for which he had been warned on other occasions, this would amount to misconduct ... and since he had been warned in writing prior to this incident that termination may result as a result of such continued disregard of his employer's instructions, would constitute gross misconduct."

The appellant appealed to the Board of Review. The Board adopted the ALJ's findings in their entirety and affirmed. The appellant then appealed to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, and by final order dated April 3, 1985, the court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review. Following the entry of the lower court's decision affirming his disqualification, the appellant filed this appeal.

The purpose of the Unemployment Compensation Law is to "provide reasonable and effective means for the promotion of social and economic security by reducing as far as practicable the hazards of unemployment." W.Va. Code, 21A-1-1 [1978].

And it is well settled that the Act should be liberally construed in order to further its remedial purposes. Davis v. Hix, 140 W.Va. 398, 84 S.E.2d 404 (1954).

The liability to pay and the right to receive unemployment compensation benefits rests upon the Unemployment Compensation Act. And such Act, being remedial in nature, its beneficient provisions should be liberally applied. Bennett v. Hix, 139 W.Va. 75 at 83, 79 S.E.2d 114 at 118 (1953).

The appellant in this case was indefinitely disqualified from receiving benefits under W.Va. Code, 21A-6-3(2) [1984] which states in pertinent part:

If he were discharged from his most recent work for one of the following ... reasons:...

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12 cases
  • Dailey v. Board of Review
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • November 10, 2003
    ...disqualification from the receipt of unemployment compensation." Id. at 395, 332 S.E.2d at 860. Similarly, in Courtney v. Rutledge, 177 W.Va. 232, 351 S.E.2d 419 (1986), this Court employed the Michigan definition of misconduct to conclude that because written instructions provided by an em......
  • Lewis v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1989
    ...nature, should be liberally construed to achieve the benign purposes intended to the full extent thereof." See also Courtney v. Rutledge, 177 W.Va. 232, 351 S.E.2d 419 (1986); Perfin v. Cole, 174 W.Va. 417, 327 S.E.2d 396 (1985); Kirk v. Cole, 169 W.Va. 520, 288 S.E.2d 547 In several cases,......
  • Peery v. Rutledge
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • March 12, 1987
    ...meaning of the statute. Kirk v. Cole, 169 W.Va. 520, 524, 288 S.E.2d 547, 549 (1982) (emphasis added). Accord, Courtney v. Rutledge, --- W.Va. ---, ---, 351 S.E.2d 419, 422 (1986); Federoff v. Rutledge, --- W.Va. ---, ---, 332 S.E.2d 855, 858 (1985); Cooper v. Rutledge, 169 W.Va. 288, 292-9......
  • Smittle v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 8, 1995 3, Adkins v. Gatson, 192 W.Va. 561, 453 S.E.2d 395 (1994). See syl. pt. 1, Davis v. Gatson, supra; syllabus, Courtney v. Rutledge, 177 W.Va. 232, 351 S.E.2d 419 (1986); syl. pt. 2, Perfin v. Cole, 174 W.Va. 417, 327 S.E.2d 396 (1985); syl. pt. 1, Kisamore v. Rutledge, 166 W.Va. 675, 276......
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