Mahoney v. Dep't of Workforce Servs., 20200884-CA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtPOHLMAN, Judge
Citation510 P.3d 293
Parties Timothy MAHONEY, Petitioner, v. DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES and Troon Golf LLC, Respondents.
Docket Number20200884-CA
Decision Date14 April 2022

510 P.3d 293

Timothy MAHONEY, Petitioner,

No. 20200884-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah.

Filed April 14, 2022

Timothy Mahoney, Petitioner Pro Se

Amanda B. McPeck, Attorney for Respondent Department of Workforce Services

Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Ryan M. Harris and Ryan D. Tenney concurred.



¶1 Timothy Mahoney seeks judicial review of a Workforce Appeals Board (the Board) decision denying him unemployment insurance benefits. Mahoney contends that the Board "ignored evidence and testimony," "assumed facts not in evidence," and "made conclusions that are contradictory to evidence and testimony." We set aside the Board's decision and instruct it to reconsider Mahoney's claim.


¶2 Mahoney was employed by Troon Golf LLC (Employer) as a general manager of its resort property in St. George, Utah. The property is made up of twenty-eight individual bungalows, with one bungalow functioning as a welcome center where guests check in. In March 2020, because of

510 P.3d 295

the COVID-19 pandemic, the welcome center was closed to outside guests and the resort instead provided contactless check-in and check-out. It also eliminated "same-day turnovers" so that "a sanitation worker [could] disinfect the bungalows before [the] housekeeping staff cleaned and prepared them for other customers."2 This adjustment "lowered the risk of [the] housekeeping staff being exposed to the COVID-19 virus." During this time, Mahoney provided masks for himself and his co-workers, but "guests and owners were not required to wear masks." In addition, the sanitation worker used "a Tyve[k] suit, gloves and a face shield" as well as a "disinfectant fogger."3

¶3 Near the end of May 2020, Employer instructed Mahoney to "return to same-day turnovers for rooms." Mahoney did not want to disinfect rooms "moments after" guests left, nor did he "want to have to order someone to do that." Mahoney claimed that as same-day turnovers increased, the responsibility for disinfecting rooms "would fall more and more on" him instead of the sanitation worker. Mahoney was concerned that these changes could unnecessarily expose him and his staff to COVID-19. He was also worried about contracting the disease and potentially infecting his wife, whose medical condition placed her at an increased risk of serious illness if she contracted COVID-19.

¶4 At the same time, Employer "insisted" that Mahoney reopen the welcome center. Accordingly, Mahoney worked to ensure that the welcome center "had all the proper precautions in place," like "[f]loor signage for social distancing" and the installation of plexiglass between the guests and the front-desk employee. However, Employer demanded that Mahoney open the welcome center to guests in June 2020, before those precautions were in place. Specifically, the plexiglass was not "in place when [Employer] insisted the welcome center be open" and there is no evidence in the record that the floor signage had arrived. Further, D.H., "the manager of the owner organization," entered the welcome center "on an almost daily basis," "refused to wear a mask," and "failed to properly social distance." He also ignored Mahoney's request that when they were together he "step away and please wear a mask."

¶5 Mahoney was concerned about re-opening the welcome center because guests came "from all over the country including places that still had stay-at-home orders in effect and ... places that were considered hot spots for COVID." He was also specifically concerned about D.H., who would not wear a mask or socially distance even after returning from traveling to a "high-risk area[ ]."

¶6 Although Mahoney did not tell Employer he was considering quitting, he expressed "extreme displeasure" and "strong objections" to reopening the welcome center and resuming same-day turnovers. Employer was not receptive to these concerns and moved forward with its plans. As a result, Mahoney quit and began looking for another job.

¶7 Following his resignation, Mahoney filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. The Utah Department of Workforce Services denied his claim, finding that Mahoney failed to "establish good cause for leaving." Mahoney appealed the denial and, after a hearing,4 the denial was affirmed by an Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ). The ALJ determined that Mahoney had "not shown he faced an unpreventable harm by remaining at work, and ha[d] not met his burden of proving he had good cause to voluntarily end his employment." Further,

510 P.3d 296

the ALJ declined to award Mahoney benefits under the equity and good conscience standard because "[i]t was not reasonable or practical for [him] to quit his job to pursue employment where his risk of contracting COVID-19 would be the same or greater than the risk he faced by continuing to work for the Employer," and because Mahoney's "decision to quit did not involve any mitigating circumstances suggesting a denial of benefits was an affront to fairness."

¶8 Mahoney appealed the ALJ's decision to the Board. The Board upheld the ALJ's decision, explaining that Mahoney "failed to produce persuasive evidence that remaining employed created a hardship outside of his control." And while the Board was "sympathetic" to Mahoney's health-related concerns, it also found that the "denial of benefits is not an affront to fairness" because the "decision to quit and look for other work in this field—where he does not seem likely to find anything appreciably safer—was not logical, sensible, or practical." Thus, the Board affirmed the decision to deny Mahoney's claim for unemployment insurance benefits.

¶9 Mahoney seeks judicial review of the Board's decision.


¶10 Mahoney challenges the Board's denial of unemployment insurance benefits on the bases that the Board overlooked material evidence and made factual findings that are not supported by substantial evidence.

¶11 This court's authority to review the Board's decision is derived from the Administrative Procedures Act. Utah Code Ann. § 63G-4-403(1) (LexisNexis 2019). The Act provides, among other things, that we may grant relief if we determine that the Board "substantially prejudiced" a person by not deciding "all of the issues requiring resolution" or by basing its decision upon a factual determination "that is not supported by substantial evidence when viewed in light of the whole record before the court." Id. § 63G-4-403(4)(c), (g) ; see also Davis v. Department of Workforce Services , 2012 UT App 158, ¶ 2, 280 P.3d 442 ; Benson v. Peace Officer Standards & Training Council , 2011 UT App 220, ¶ 22, 261 P.3d 643. "Substantial evidence exists where more than a mere scintilla, though something less than the weight of the evidence, supports the Board's findings." Prosper Team, Inc. v. Department of Workforce Services , 2011 UT App 246, ¶ 4, 262 P.3d 462 (cleaned up). This is met "when a reasonable mind might accept as adequate the evidence supporting the" relevant findings. Id. (cleaned up).

¶12 "A person is substantially prejudiced by an agency action if that challenged action was not harmless." Foye v. Labor Comm'n , 2018 UT App 124, ¶ 31, 428 P.3d 26. "An error will be harmless if it is sufficiently inconsequential that there is no reasonable likelihood that the error affected the outcome of the proceedings." Smith v. Department of Workforce Services , 2010 UT App 382, ¶ 17, 245 P.3d 758 (cleaned up).


¶13 Claimants who voluntarily quit their employment may be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits if they can show "good cause for the separation or if denying benefits would be contrary to equity and good conscience." Gibson v. Department of Workforce Services , 2017 UT App 107, ¶ 3, 400 P.3d 1152 (per curiam); see also Utah Code Ann. § 35A-4-405(1)(a)–(b) (LexisNexis 2019); Utah Admin. Code R994-405-101(3).

¶14 To establish good cause, a claimant must first "show that continuing the employment would have caused an adverse effect which the claimant could not control or...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT