Mercer County Bd. of Educ. v. Gatson

Decision Date06 December 1991
Docket NumberNo. 20215,20215
Citation412 S.E.2d 249,186 W.Va. 251
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
Parties, 71 Ed. Law Rep. 1216 The MERCER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Appellee Below, Petitioner, v. Honorable Cathy S. GATSON, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County; the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security; Richard E. Tyson, as Chairman Thereof; C.C. Elmore, Jr. and John K. Chase, Jr., as Members Thereof; Adna I. Thomas, as Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security; and Billy J. Morefield and Joe Meuwissen, Appellants Below, Respondents.

Syllabus by the Court

"Unemployment compensation statutes, being remedial in nature, should be liberally construed to achieve the benign purposes intended to the full extent thereof." Syllabus point 6, Davis v. Hix, 140 W.Va. 398, 84 S.E.2d 404 (1954).

Kathryn Reed Bayless, Princeton, for petitioner.

J.W. Barringer, Stone, McGhee, Feuchtenberger & Barringer, Bluefield, for respondents, Morefield and Meuwissen.

PER CURIAM:

By an order entered on February 26, 1991, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County reversed a decision of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security relating to the eligibility of two individuals, Billy J. Morefield and Joseph Meuwissen, to receive unemployment compensation benefits and ruled that they were eligible to receive benefits. The Department of Employment Security and Board of Review of that department had found that both Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen were ineligible to receive benefits from July 29, 1984, because they were not available for full time work for which they were fitted by prior training or experience. In the present appeal, the Mercer County Board of Education, Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen's former employer, contends that the circuit court erred in reversing a ruling of the Department of Employment Security. After reviewing the record, this Court disagrees and affirms the judgment of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County.

Billy J. Morefield and Joseph Meuwissen, the claimants in this employment security case, worked for the Mercer County Board of Education as school psychologists until they were terminated effective June 30, 1984. They were terminated because the Board of Education made a determination that it would be more cost effective to obtain psychological services of the type provided by Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen on a private contract basis rather than on an in-house basis.

Subsequent to losing their jobs, Morefield and Meuwissen applied for unemployment compensation benefits, and the Department of Employment Security found that they were entitled to the benefits beginning in July, 1984. The employer, the Mercer County Board of Education, on February 28, 1985, protested the award. The Board of Education claimed that Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen had failed to apply for available suitable work and that both had failed to accept suitable work when offered. *

The Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security denied the Board of Education's protest, and as a consequence, hearings were conducted on the issues before an administrative law judge in May, July, August, and October, 1985.

At the conclusion of the hearings, the administrative law judge found that both Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen were ineligible for the receipt of benefits from July 29, 1984, forward because they were not available for full time work for which they were fitted by prior training or experience. This finding was premised upon the failure of Morefield and Meuwissen to seek employment and make job contacts with employers offering employment in their area of work. The administrative law judge further found that claimant Morefield had refused to accept offers of employment beginning in July, 1984. Both offers had been made by the former employer, the Mercer County Board of Education. The first was for a permanent substitute position in Mercer County schools in the learning disability area; and the second was an offer for a principal internship position in the schools. The administrative law judge also found that both types of employment constituted suitable offers for work and that Mr. Morefield had failed to show good cause for his failure to accept those positions.

Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen appealed the determination that they were ineligible to the Board of Review of the Department of Employment Security, and the Board of Review affirmed the administrative law judge's findings. Mr. Morefield and Mr. Meuwissen then appealed to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. By order entered February 26, 1991, the circuit court reversed the Board of Review's decision and essentially found that the Board of Review was plainly wrong in its findings of fact and that it had incorrectly decided the questions of law.

In the present proceeding, the Board of Education argues that the Board of Review was not plainly wrong in making its findings of fact and that it did not err in applying the law to the facts of the case when it ruled that the claimants were ineligible for benefits due to their unavailability for full time work.

The controversy in this case centers around two factual questions. The first is whether claimants Morefield and Meuwissen made reasonable attempts to obtain employment with two private agencies which had openings for psychologists in the claimants' area of employment. A sub-question related to this is whether the claimants' failure to make reasonable attempt to obtain such employment constituted a fact rendering them ineligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits, provided such employment was available. The second factual question is whether claimant Morefield's refusal to accept two positions offered to him by the Board of Education of Mercer County rendered him ineligible to obtain unemployment compensation benefits.

The evidence adduced during the hearings in this case showed that the opportunities for psychologists with the claimants' qualifications were limited to private practice or employment with two agencies, the Southern Highland Mental Health Center and the Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council. In addition, there were some teaching positions available at three area colleges which apparently were not really comparable to the claimants' prior work. As previously indicated, the first factual question in this case is whether the claimants made reasonable attempts to obtain employment with these employers.

Claimant Meuwissen, during the hearings in this case, testified that he applied by mail to the Southern West Virginia Regional Health Council for an opening in that agency. He further testified that he did not receive a response to his application and that he assumed that the agency was not interested in his services. Additional testimony from Patrick Farley, the director of psychological services of the other private employer, the Southern Highland Community Mental Health Center, indicated that dissention had...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 cases
  • Smittle v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 8, 1995
    ...be liberally construed to achieve the benign purposes intended to the full extent thereof." Syllabus, Mercer County Bd. of Education v. Gatson, 186 W.Va. 251, 412 S.E.2d 249 (1991). 3. "The findings of fact of the Board of Review of the West Virginia Department of Employment Security are en......
  • Private Industry Council of Kanawha County v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • February 20, 1997
    ...the full extent thereof.' Syllabus point 6, Davis v. Hix, 140 W.Va. 398, 84 S.E.2d 404 (1954)." Syllabus, Mercer County Bd. of Educ. v. Gatson, 186 W.Va. 251, 412 S.E.2d 249 (1991). 3. " ' '[S]ubstantial unilateral changes in the terms of employment furnish 'good cause involving fault on th......
  • Summers v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • June 18, 1999
    ...intended to the full extent thereof." Syl. pt. 6, Davis v. Hix, 140 W.Va. 398, 84 S.E.2d 404 (1954); see, Mercer County Bd. of Educ. v. Gatson, 186 W.Va. 251, 412 S.E.2d 249 (1991); London v. Board of Review of Dept. of Employment, 161 W.Va. 575, 244 S.E.2d 331 An obvious corollary to this ......
  • Adkins v. Gatson
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 21, 1994
    ...in favor of the 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, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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