Taylor v. Iowa Dept. of Job Service, 84-480

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtWOLLE
Citation362 N.W.2d 534
PartiesRussell S. TAYLOR, Appellant, v. IOWA DEPARTMENT OF JOB SERVICE and Hurst Excavating, Inc., Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 84-480,84-480
Decision Date13 February 1985

Page 534

362 N.W.2d 534
Russell S. TAYLOR, Appellant,
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF JOB SERVICE and Hurst Excavating, Inc., Appellees.
No. 84-480.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Feb. 13, 1985.

Page 536

Mark K. Hill, of Legal Services Corp. of Iowa, Iowa City, for appellant.

Joseph L. Bervid, Walter F. Maley and Blair H. Dewey, Des Moines, for appellee Iowa Dept. of Job Service.


WOLLE, Justice.

A worker's eligibility for unemployment benefits depends largely upon the reasons the employee has left the employment. Claimant Russell S. Taylor (Taylor) gave the Iowa Department of Job Service (department) several reasons for quitting a job after working only a few days. The department found that Taylor had left the job only because of illness and denied his claim on the ground that he had not been advised by a physician to leave the job. The district court affirmed. We reverse and remand, concluding that the department should not decide whether or not Taylor is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits until it has considered each of the several reasons he gave for quitting the job.

Taylor's version of what happened was the only evidence presented to the agency. Taylor had previously been employed as an asbestos worker, performing relatively light and skilled construction work. He had been unemployed for approximately four months and was receiving unemployment benefits at the time he applied for the job in question. He had tried without success to find suitable work in the area of his training and experience.

On May 20, 1982, Taylor accepted employment with the employer Hurst Excavating, Inc. (Hurst), running a jackhammer in a 48 inch underground tunnel where a sewer pipe was being installed. When Taylor accepted that position as a jackhammer operator, he recognized that the job would be difficult to handle for a person of his size and physical condition but he decided to accept the work on a trial basis. Taylor and Hurst agreed that Taylor would be allowed to work fifty hours per week and would receive an hourly wage of $6.00 for the first eight hours each day, and $9.00 for overtime hours.

During the six days that Taylor worked at the jackhammer job he found the working conditions extremely difficult and the pay less than he had been promised. He said the manual labor was heavier, noisier, and more exhausting than he had expected, producing headaches and nausea. He said he had received electrical shocks from a cord lying in the water-filled trench where he was working. Finally, he said his hours of work had been reduced from the fifty he had been promised to forty per week, netting him ten hours less overtime and $90 less pay each week. In explaining why he quit midway through his seventh day on the job, Taylor gave three reasons: illness, unsafe and detrimental working conditions, and a substantial change in his contract for hire.

The department twice considered and rejected Taylor's claim for benefits. The second hearing was made necessary by an interim judicial review decision of the Johnson

Page 537

County District Court finding that the department had not considered the whole record before issuing its first ruling. The department in an appeal decision, and the district court on judicial review, both upheld the findings of fact and conclusions of law which the hearing officer entered in denying Taylor's claim for benefits.

I. Scope of Judicial Review.

Our review of this contested case agency decision is at law, not de novo, and we are limited to the record made before the agency. Green v. Iowa Department of Job Service, 299 N.W.2d 651, 655 (Iowa 1980). To decide the issues here raised, we must determine whether the agency action was either affected by an error of law or "unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency when that record is viewed as a whole." Iowa Code §§ 17A.19(8)(e), (f) (1981). See Higgins v. Iowa Department of Job Service, 350 N.W.2d 187, 190 (Iowa 1984). The possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence does not prevent the department's finding from being supported by substantial evidence. Messina v. Iowa Department of Job Service, 341 N.W.2d 52, 59 (Iowa 1983). At the same time, findings of fact and a reasoned decision by the agency are required by Iowa Code section 17A.16 and are essential for purposes of judicial review. Johnston v. Iowa Real Estate Commission, 344 N.W.2d 236, 239 (Iowa 1984). Because the court on judicial review of agency action has no original authority to make findings of fact and declare the parties' rights, the court should remand for further specific findings when the agency's ruling does not clearly disclose a sound factual and legal basis for its decision. See, e.g., Brown v. Public Employment Relations Board, 345 N.W.2d 88, 93-94 (Iowa 1984); Public Employment Relations Board v. Stohr, 279 N.W.2d 286, 290-92 (Iowa 1979).

The ultimate question which must be answered in this case is whether Taylor is disqualified from receiving benefits because he left his jackhammer job "voluntarily without good cause attributable to his or her employer," the general language of Iowa Code section 96.5(1) (1981). That statute furthers the declared Iowa public policy of using unemployment compensation to protect workers from "involuntary unemployment," the "greatest hazard of our economic life." Iowa Code § 96.2 ("Declaration of State Public Policy" and "guide for interpretation"); see Community Lutheran School v. Iowa Department of Job Service, 326 N.W.2d 286, 289 (Iowa 1982).

The larger issue here is whether chapter 96 should be construed to give special protection to persons like Taylor who were drawing unemployment benefits prior to accepting inappropriate employment. Taylor claims the department committed an error of law in not recognizing and applying such an exception.

The narrower issues here concern each of the three reasons Taylor gave for leaving his job. We must decide whether the department gave full and fair consideration to each of the reasons he gave for quitting before determining that he was disqualified from receiving benefits.

II. Should Persons Drawing Benefits Be Allowed A Trial Period On Unsuitable Jobs?

Taylor first asserts as a matter of important public policy that the department should not penalize persons drawing unemployment benefits who try out work which may prove to be unsuitable. He points out that he had a work history of relatively light and unskilled construction work, had been receiving unemployment benefits for four months, and could have continued to receive benefits without applying for this lower paying and unskilled job. See New Homestead v. Iowa Department of Job Service, 322 N.W.2d 269, 271 (Iowa 1982) (claimant allowed reasonable time to seek work commensurate with customary occupation). Taylor chose to accept employment as a jackhammer operator even though Hurst agreed the work might prove too strenuous for him. Taylor's counsel now vigorously argues that it would be unfair for the department to deprive him of

Page 538

benefits just because he went the extra mile in searching for gainful employment. His brief states:

[A]lthough a claimant's intention to rejoin the nation's work force is normally inferred from the manner in which he left his job and his subsequent attempts to find work, Mr. Taylor's intention to remain in the work force is eloquently witnessed by his acceptance of the unsuitable job in the first place. If a man has ever demonstrated the free market virtues of hard work and ambition it was Mr. Taylor. He is precisely the worker the act was designed to protect from the ravages of unemployment.

Taylor concedes that Iowa Code chapter 96 does not authorize an award of benefits to individuals who accept work on a trial basis and subsequently quit,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
28 cases
  • Hearst Corp. v. Iowa Dept. of Revenue and Finance, 89-1863
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 September 1990
    ...record made before the agency. Hussein v. Tama Meat Packing Corp., 394 N.W.2d 340, 341 (Iowa 1986); Taylor v. Iowa Dep't of Job Serv., 362 N.W.2d 534, 537 (Iowa Hearst challenges the agency action based on the above-enumerated provisions. III. The Taxation Scheme. Under Iowa's sales and use......
  • Norland v. Iowa Dept. of Job Service, 86-1520
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 23 September 1987
    ...be disqualified for benefits. See Des Moines Indep. Community School Dist., 376 N.W.2d at 608 (citing Taylor v. Iowa Dep't of Job Serv., 362 N.W.2d 534, 541 (Iowa 1985)) (once claimant shows entitlement to compensation, employer has burden of proving claimant quit job without cause attribut......
  • Newland v. Job Service North Dakota, 890348
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • 9 August 1990
    ...asserted reasons for quitting, she is entitled to have Job Service consider each of those reasons. Taylor v. Iowa Dept. of Job Service, 362 N.W.2d 534, 539 (Iowa 1985). Nothing in our unemployment compensation law suggests that a claimant must rest her entire claim to compensation on one re......
  • Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. v. Employment Appeal Bd., 96-1267
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 22 October 1997
    ...court nor we have original authority to make findings of fact and declare the parties' rights. Taylor v. Iowa Dep't of Job Serv., 362 N.W.2d 534, 537 (Iowa 1985). In circumstances where the agency does not make such findings and declare such rights, a remand is necessary for those findings ......
  • 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