Thompson v. Kentucky Unemployment Ins., 2001-CA-000422-MR.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
Citation85 S.W.3d 621
Docket NumberNo. 2001-CA-000422-MR.,2001-CA-000422-MR.
PartiesEdward THOMPSON, Jr., Appellant, v. KENTUCKY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COMMISSION and Packaging Unlimited, Inc., Appellees.
Decision Date26 April 2002
85 S.W.3d 621
Edward THOMPSON, Jr., Appellant,
v.
KENTUCKY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COMMISSION and Packaging Unlimited, Inc., Appellees.
No. 2001-CA-000422-MR.
Court of Appeals of Kentucky.
April 26, 2002.
Rehearing Denied August 23, 2002.

Page 622

Edward Thompson, Jr., Covington, pro se.

Jeffrey S. Schafer, Louisville, Kentucky, for appellee, Packaging Unlimited.

Page 623

Randall K. Justice, Assistant General Counsel, Frankfort, Kentucky, for appellee, Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission.

Before BUCKINGHAM, DYCHE and JOHNSON, Judges.

OPINION

JOHNSON, Judge.


Edward Thompson, Jr., pro se, has appealed from a judgment of the Kenton Circuit Court entered on January 29, 2001, which affirmed a decision of the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission (KUIC) which had denied Thompson unemployment insurance benefits. Having concluded that KUIC's factual findings were supported by substantial evidence and that it applied the correct law to the facts as found, we affirm.

Thompson was initially employed at Packaging Unlimited in July 1994, as an assistant die cutter operator. Approximately two and a half years later, he was promoted to an operator's position. He worked the second shift, 3:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., four days a week. In January 1998, Packaging Unlimited ceased operations of the second shift and Thompson was reassigned to the first shift as an assistant operator with a decrease in his hourly rate of pay. In June 1998, the second shift was reinstated but Thompson remained on the first shift. On August 24, 1998, Thompson left work unannounced, upset about the circumstances surrounding his job. However, a short time later, he contacted Charles Richards, the plant manager, and apologized. The company issued Thompson a reprimand and suspended him from work for four days. Upon his return, Thompson was reassigned to the second shift as an operator at a rate of pay that was higher than his pay prior to his transfer to the first shift. Two operators usually worked on the first shift, while only one operator was employed to work on the second shift.

On the night of August 24, 1999, Thompson gave the foreman, his immediate supervisor, a written notice of resignation "because my job is stressful working under Charles Richards['] discriminated actions."1 Thompson told the foreman that consistent with company policy the resignation was intended to become effective after two weeks. After Richards received Thompson's resignation letter the next day, he notified Thompson that his resignation was accepted but that his employment was being terminated immediately as of August 25, 1999.

On August 26, 1999, Thompson filed an initial claim for unemployment benefits. Following a preliminary investigation, the Division of Unemployment Insurance denied the claim under KRS2 341.370(1)(c) based on a finding that Thompson had voluntarily quit work without good cause. Thompson appealed the decision to a referee3, who held a hearing on December 8, 1999, at which both Thompson and Richards testified. In a written opinion, the referee modified the initial determination. The referee found that Thompson was entitled to benefits for the two-week period from August 22 to September 4, 1999, which coincided with his two-week advanced notice period, but denied Thompson any benefits after that period.4 The referee further found that the company's termination of Thompson prior to the effective date intended in the two-week advanced

Page 624

notice was not based on reasons constituting "discharge for misconduct" under KRS 341.370(6), but that Thompson had not established that his resignation was because of racial discrimination or other improper conduct by the employer. On April 11, 2000, a three-member panel of the KUIC issued an order which affirmed the referee on substantially the same grounds and rationale as expressed by the referee. Thompson appealed to the circuit court,5 which affirmed the KUIC's decision. This appeal followed.

Upon review of an administrative agency's adjudicatory decision, an appeal court's authority is somewhat limited.6 The judicial standard of review of an unemployment benefit decision is whether the KUIC's findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence and whether the agency correctly applied the law to the facts.7 Substantial evidence is defined as evidence, taken alone or in light of all the evidence, that has sufficient probative value to induce conviction in the minds of reasonable people.8 If there is substantial evidence to support the agency's findings, a court must defer to that finding even though there is evidence to the contrary.9 A court may not substitute its opinion as to the credibility of the witnesses, the weight given the evidence, or the inferences to be drawn from the evidence.10 A court's function in administrative matters is one of review, not reinterpretation.11

Thompson contends that the KUIC erred in finding that he was not entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits subsequent to September 5, 1999. Before the referee, Thompson argued that racially discriminatory conditions forced him to quit his job. Under KRS 314.370(1)(c):

(1) A worker shall be disqualified from receiving benefits for the duration of any period of unemployment with respect to which:

. . .

(c) He has left his most recent suitable work ... voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employment.

It is well-established that "good cause" for purposes of determining whether an employee voluntarily left suitable work "exists only when the worker is faced with circumstances so compelling as to

Page 625

leave no reasonable alternative but loss of employment."12 In addition, "voluntary" connotes a decision to quit that is "freely given" and "proceeding from one's own choice or full consent."13 A claimant bears the burden of showing that he did not leave his job voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employment.14

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