Pickman v. Weltmer

Decision Date08 June 1963
Docket NumberNo. 43286,43286
Citation382 P.2d 298,191 Kan. 543
PartiesRobert E. PICKMAN et al., Appellees, v. L. M. WELTMER, R. F. Olberding and Sid Calbert, as members of the Employment Security Board of Review of the State of Kansas and The L. F. M. Mfg. Co., Inc., Appellants.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. The provisions of the Kansas Employment Security Law (G.S.1949, 44-701 et seq., as amended), should receive a liberal interpretation, and the right to receive benefits thereunder is determined by the statute.

2. Where unemployment is originally caused by a labor dispute, before an employee

will be entitled to benefits of the Employment Security Law (G.S.1949, 44-701 et seq., as amended), he has the burden of proving that his continued unemployment is not the result of the labor dispute, but is caused from some other condition beyond his control.

3. Where a claimant seeks judicial review for unemployment compensation benefits, findings of fact of the Employment Security Board of Review are conclusive and may not be set aside by the district court in the absence of fraud where they are supported by evidence, and the jurisdiction of the court is confined to questions of law.

4. Whether unemployment is or is not originally caused by a labor dispute is a question to be determined in each case. The line of demarcation is not the end of the strike, but the end of the work stoppage due to the strike.

5. G.S.1961 Supp. 44-706[d] disqualifying for benefits for any week with respect to which unemployment is due to a 'stoppage of work' which exists because of a 'labor dispute' is construed, and it is held: that the term 'stoppage of work' is not synonymous with 'strike,' and a claimant is not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits for the period immediately following termination of a strike, which is reasonably necessary to physically resume normal production operations in the plant.

6. The record is examined, and it is held: the findings of fact of the Employment Security Board of Review that the unemployment of claimants after the termination of the strike on October 21, 1961, was due to the time reasonably required to physically resume normal operations in the chain process method used in the plant, was amply supported by evidence, and claimants were not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits under G.S.1961 Supp. 44-706[d]. It is further held: the district court erred in setting aside the findings of fact of the Employment Security Board of Review and in its construction of the foregoing statute.

Lynn D. Smith, Topeka, argued the cause, and F. Duane Roberts, Topeka, was with him on the briefs for appellant, Employment Security Board of Review. John E. Buehler, Atchison, was on the briefs for appellant, The L. F. M. Mfg. Co., Inc.

J. W. Lowry, Atchison, argued the cause, and Steadman Ball, William E. Stillings and Robert D. Caplinger, Atchison, were with him on the briefs for appellees.

FATZER, Justice.

This appeal involves the eligibility of twenty-four individual appellee-claimants for unemployment insurance benefits under the provisions of the Kansas Employment Security Law (G.S.1949, 44-701 et seq., as amended), and particularly G.S.1961 Supp., 44-706[d].

The individual appellees were employees of The L. F. M. Mfg. Co., Inc., hereafter referred to as the company. During all periods here involved they were represented for the purpose of collective bargaining by the United Steelworkers Union, which was certified by the National Labor Relations Board as the bargaining unit for all the employees of the company.

Prior to October 9, 1961, the company and the union had been negotiating concerning the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. On October 9, 1961, a strike was called and pickets were posted. On Saturday morning, October 21, 1961, the company received a letter from the union advising that it was removing the pickets and the employees would return for work on Monday, October 23, 1961, unconditionally. On October 23, 1961, all employees who had been out on strike were asked by the company to sign to unconditionally return to work, and on that date it began calling employees to work. The services of substantially all the 700 employees could not be utilized on that date, but all were recalled to work by November 17, 1961. As of November 6, 1961, all the employees had been recalled to work except thirty, including fourteen of the claimants.

The company is a steel and iron foundry and normal production process in the plant is divided into five basic departments, and the production in each phase of the operation is dependent upon the production in the preceding department, that is, it is a kind of production where the second operation is dependent upon the first and cannot be performed until after the first is performed, and the third is dependent upon the first and second, and so forth. The evidence was undisputed that normal production of an item through all stages requires about five weeks. The claimants were employed in the machine shop which is the last phase of production in the plant. Until normal operations were resumed in the proper phases of production so that the flow of items manufactured could reach the machine shop, normal work could not be provided for the employees of that department. The claimants did not all return to work on the same date but were recalled on different dates between October 30, and November 17, 1961, on the basis of work seniority and ability to perfrom work which they normally did and which was then available.

Each claimant filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits for the period of his unemployment subsequent to October 23, 1961. A special examiner made findings that 'because of the nature of the manufacturing operation at this employer's plant the stoppage of work did not cease until on or about November 6, 1961'; that 'the stoppage of work which continued during the period from October 23, 1961, through November 4, 1961, was the direct result of a labor dispute,' and concluded that the claimants were disqualified for benefits for any calendar week of unemployment occurring during that period as provided in G.S.1961 Supp. 44-706[d].

The claimants appealed from the examiner's determination to the Employment Security Board of Review. After a hearing at which testimony was taken, the Board, on April 19, 1962, entered its decision that the unemployment of claimants after October 23, 1961, was due to a labor dispute, and denied benefits.

The claimants sought judicial review in the district court pursuant to G.S.1961 Supp. 44-709[h], and the court, upon a consideration of the record and argument of counsel, found,

'That there is no evidence to support the finding of the special examiner or the Board of Review to the effect that the stoppage of work at the plant of the L. F. M. Mfg. Company did not cease until on or about November 6, 1961.

'The Court further finds that the pleadings herein presented a question of law as to the applicability of G.S.1961, Supp. 44-706(d). In this connection the Court finds:

'That the stoppage of work that existed at the plant of the defendant L. F. M. Mfg. Company, Inc. ceased on October 23, 1961, as the said work stoppage should be construed under said section of the statute.

'The Court further finds that the decision of the Board of Review, dated 19 April 1962, should be reversed and an order entered in accordance with the above finding.'

The parties concede that a stoppage of work existed at the company's plant because of a labor dispute between October 9, and October 23, 1961, and make the following contentions: The appellants contend that the stoppage of work and claimants' resulting disqualification did not end until there had been a resumption of normal production at the plant, even though there had been an earlier termination of the strike; further, that although the labor dispute had ended, where there is a necessary delay in a particular department which is due to operation methods adopted by the company because they produced the best results for its type of production, such delay results directly from the labor dispute even though employees in other departments were recalled at an earlier date. The claimants contend on the other hand, that, as a matter of law, G.S.1961 Supp. 44-706[d] applies only to the time an actual 'labor dispute' exists which causes a 'work stoppage,' and that there was no evidence presented which showed a real work stoppage except from October 9, through October 23, 1961, when the claimants signed the company's roster to unconditionally return to work. Hence, the sole question presented for appellate review is, did the stoppage of work end when the pickets were removed and the striking workers offered to return to work on October 23, 1961, or did the stoppage of work continue until the claimants were recalled to work in the orderly resumption of normal production of the plant?

The pertinent portion of G.S.1961 Supp. 44-706 reads:

'An individual shall be disqualified for benefits: * * * (d) For any week with respect to which the commissioner finds that his...

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