Thomas v. California Employment Stabilization Commission

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation39 Cal.2d 501,247 P.2d 561
Decision Date27 August 1952

Fred N. Howser and Edmund G. Brown, Attys. Gen., Irving H. Perluss, William L. Shaw and Chas. W. Johnson, Deputy Attys. Gen., for California Employment Stabilization Commission, et al., appellants.

Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, Marshall P. Madison, Francis N. Marshall and Fredrick H. Hawkins, San Francisco, for Pacific Lumber Co., appellant.

Todd & Todd, Clarence E. Todd, Henry C. Todd, San, Francisco, George E. Flood, Seattle, Wash., and Gordon W. Mallatratt, San, Francisco, for respondent.

GIBSON, Chief Justice.

Defendants appeal from a judgment which granted a writ of mandate ordering benefits to be paid to plaintiff and 190 other employees of defendant Pacific Lumber Company under the Unemployment Insurance Act. Stats. 1935, p. 1226, as amended; 3 Deering's Gen.Laws (1937), Act 8780d; 3 Deering's Gen.Laws (1944), Act 8780d. The judgment set aside a decision of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board which denied such benefits to the claimants.

The logging employees of the company struck and set up a picket line around the company's sawmill. Claimants, who were plant or mill employees, refused to go through the picket line. The company closed the plant and gave claimants notices of 'employment termination.' The appeals board determined that claimants were out of work because of a trade dispute and therefore were disqualified by section 56 of the act from receiving unemployment benefits. 1 This proceeding for a writ of mandate was then instituted in the superior court, and the matter was presented on the record before the board. The court, after holding that it was entitled to exercise independent judgment on the evidence, found that claimants had been discharged and concluded, in effect, that this removed their disqualification. It annulled the decision of the board and granted a writ of mandate directing the commission to pay benefits accruing after the date of discharge.

Defendants contend that the trial court was without power to reweigh the evidence and that, in any event, the judgment must be reversed because the undisputed facts show as a matter of law that claimants are disqualified under section 56 of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

The appeals board is a statutory agency with statewide jurisdiction, and it does not have constitutional authority to make final determinations of fact. For general statutory provisions see Unemp. Inc. Act, Deering's Gen.Laws (1944), Act 8780d, §§ 1, 77 et seq. Any person deprived of a property right by such an administrative body is entitled to a limited trial de novo in the superior court. Laisne v. Cal. State Bd. of Optometry, 19 Cal.2d 831, 123 P.2d 457; Moran v. Board of Medical Examiners, 32 Cal.2d 301, 196 P.2d 20; Dare v. Bd. of Medical Examiners, 21 Cal.2d 790, 136 P.2d 304. In our opinion the benefits provided for by the Unemployment Insurance Act are property rights within the meaning of the term as used in the cases requiring a trial de novo. When a claimant has met all requirements of the act, and all contingencies have taken place under its terms, he then has a statutory right to a fixed or definitely ascertainable sum of money. See, for example, §§ 54, 67 (now in 68), and 72 as amended in 1945, Stats. 1945, pp. 1108, 2558, 2559-2560. The determination of the extent amounts due is essentially a mathematical and mechanical process, and the administrative authorities have no discretion to withhold benefits from any particular claimant once it is determined that the facts support his claim and the condition of the fund permits payment. Benefit claims, accordingly, are not comparable to applications for business and professional licenses such as those considered in McDonough v. Goodcell, 13 Cal.2d 741, 746-749, 91 P. 1035, 123 A.L.R. 1205, and Southern California Jockey Club v. Cal. etc. Racing Bd., 36 Cal.2d 167, 174-175, 223 P.2d 1, where we held that a denial of the licenses did not interfere with property rights. There, as the court pointed out, the administrative officers were given broad discretionary powers to deny applications, subject to review only for disregard of the law, arbitrary action, or other abuse of discretion. We conclude, therefore, that in the present case the trial court acted correctly in exercising its independent judgment on the evidence.

The next question is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the determination of the trial court that the claimants are entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits. They refused to cross the picket line which was set up by the logging workers on January 14, 1946, and the company closed its plant on January 18 because of the absence of certain unidentified 'key men' necessary to the operation of the mill. Some of the claimants participated in the picket line both before and after the plant was closed. It is undisputed that claimants' refusal to cross the picket line resulted in their being out of work because of a trade dispute, within the meaning of section 56 of the act, supra, Stats. 1945, p. 2225, from January 14 to and including January 17, and, therefore, that they were disqualified from receiving benefits for this period. See Matson Terminals, Inc. v. Cal. Emp. Com., 24 Cal.2d 695, 151 P.2d 202, and companion cases.

After the plant was closed each of the claimants received from the company a notice entitled 'employment termination,' which was signed by the company's foreman and stated that the 'date terminated' was January 18, 1946. The trial court found and concluded that these notices were used by the company for the purpose of discharging claimants, that the company terminated and discharged each claimant on January 18, 1946, and that the discharge was the direct and proximate cause of unemployment after that date.

The evidence is sufficient to support the trial court's finding that claimants were discharged as of January 18. They were employees of the company until that date, since their refusal to cross the picket line did not terminate the employer-employee relationship. See Mark Hopkins, Inc. v. Cal. Emp. Com., 24 Cal.2d 744, 749, 751, 151 P.2d 229, 154 A.L.R. 1081. The 'employment termination' notices were unqualified and indicated that there was a discharge as of the designated date, and there is other evidence, which need not be set forth here, that tends to support the finding. Testimony, relied upon by defendants, that the company did not intend to discharge claimants but only to terminate their 'continuous employment period' for purpose of the company's bonus plan merely presented a conflict in the evidence which was resolved in favor of claimants.

A more difficult question is presented as to whether there is any substantial evidence which supports the determination of the trial court that the discharge of claimants by the company was the direct and proximate cause of each claimant being unemployed after January 18, 1946. There appears to be no conflict in the evidence with respect to the events which transpired insofar as this phase of the case is concerned. Claimants refused to pass the picket line which the logging employees established around the company's sawmill, and, as we have seen, it is undisputed that this refusal operated to disqualify claimants from receiving benefits for the period of their unemployment prior to January 18. The picket line, as well as the trade dispute between the logging employees and the company, continued after the date and during the entire period for which claimants seek benefits. Four of the six claimants who testified in the administrative proceeding admitted that they participated in the picket line after they were discharged.

There is no evidence in the record indicating that the termination notices caused claimants to remain out of work after January 18 or had anything to do with their determination to remain away from their jobs. None of the claimants who appeared as witnesses testified that he would have returned to work if he had not been discharged or that he would have been willing to cross the picket line. To the contrary, claimants did not respond to two notices given by the company to all employees on or about January 21 and February 18 requesting that they return to work immediately or as soon as strike conditions cease to exist.

Under the circumstances presented by the record in this case the only reasonable conclusion is that claimants remained out of work after January 18 as well as before that date because they were unwilling to cross the picket line which was maintained by the logging employees in their trade dispute with the company. Accordingly, claimants were disqualified under section 56 of the act from receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

The judgment is reversed.

SHENK, SCHAUER, and SPENCE, JJ., concur.

TRAYNOR, Justice.

I concur in the judgment.

It is undisputed that claimants left their work because of a trade dispute within the meaning of section 56(a) of the Unemployment Insurance Act. See, Matson Terminals, Inc. v. Cal. Emp. Com., 24 Cal.2d 695, 702-704, 151 P.2d 202; Bodinson Mfg. Co. v. California Emp. Com., 17 Cal.2d 321, 328, 109 P.2d 935. The only question presented, therefore, is whether or not they remained out of work by reason of the fact that the trade dispute was still in active progress in the establishment is which they were employed. For the reasons set forth in the dissenting opinion in Southern California Jockey Club v. California etc. Racing Board, 36 Cal.2d 167, 178, 223 P.2d 1, and the dissenting opinion cited therein, it is my opinion that claimants were not entitled to a limited trial de novo on this issue; whether or not the right to unemployment insurance benefits is a property right. Accordingly, the only issue...

To continue reading

Request your trial
51 cases
  • Interstate Brands v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • April 10, 1980
    ...of the law governing the scope of judicial review of Board decisions which had emerged prior to Bixby. In Thomas v. California Emp.Stab.Com. (1952) 39 Cal.2d 501, 247 P.2d 561, 23 had held that a claimant for unemployment insurance benefits who,. having been declared ineligible for such ben......
  • Frink v. Prod
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • April 8, 1982
    ...supra, the right to continued welfare benefits involves, of course, the individual's means of support. (See also Thomas v. California Emp. Stab. Com., supra, 39 Cal.2d 501 , holding that unemployment insurance benefits are a 'property right,' the denial of which warrants a limited trial de ......
  • Bixby v. Pierno
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1971
    ... ... L.A. 29689 ... Supreme Court of California, ... Feb. 23, 1971 ... Page 236 ...         [4 Cal.3d 134] Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Arthur C. de Goede, Deputy Atty ... authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve certain reorganization plans found to be 'fair ... California Dept. of Employment (1968) 259 Cal.App.2d 409, 411, 66 Cal.Rptr. 390 ... ...
  • American Federation of Labor v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • August 29, 1996
    ...claimant] then has a statutory right to a fixed or definitely ascertainable sum of money. [Citations.]" (Thomas v. California Emp. Stab. Com. (1952) 39 Cal.2d 501, 504, 247 P.2d 561.) At this point, the claimant has met the requirements of section 3287(a), and may seek prejudgment interest ......
  • 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