Tomlinson v. Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, No. 89-01166

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtALTENBERND; FRANK, A.C.J., and PATTERSON
Citation558 So.2d 62
Parties15 Fla. L. Weekly D324 Robert TOMLINSON, Appellant, v. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Appellee.
Decision Date31 January 1990
Docket NumberNo. 89-01166

Page 62

558 So.2d 62
15 Fla. L. Weekly D324
Robert TOMLINSON, Appellant,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Appellee.
No. 89-01166.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Second District.
Jan. 31, 1990.
Rehearing Denied March 13, 1990.

Page 63

Stanley E. Marable, Sarasota, for appellant.

Jack Emory Farley of the Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services, Tampa, for appellee.

ALTENBERND, Judge.

Mr. Tomlinson appeals an order of the Department of Administration (DOA). That order upholds the determination of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) that Mr. Tomlinson abandoned his position of employment with the state. We reverse the order and require that Mr. Tomlinson be reinstated with back pay.

After twenty-eight years of employment with the state, Mr. Tomlinson failed to contact his supervisor during a one-week illness. Relying on Florida's constructive abandonment regulation, Florida Administrative Code Rule 22A-7.010(2)(a), HRS notified Mr. Tomlinson that his unexcused absence for more than three days was a voluntary abandonment of his position with HRS. Mr. Tomlinson appealed the HRS decision to DOA. At the administrative hearing, DOA erroneously applied the constructive abandonment regulation as a conclusive presumption. The regulation is, at most, a rebuttable presumption. Although Mr. Tomlinson failed to disprove the predicate fact within the presumption, i.e., that he was absent without authorization for three consecutive days, he successfully disproved the ultimate fact within the presumption, i.e., that he abandoned his job. This was all that was required of Mr. Tomlinson to overcome the state's claim that he had "separated" from his position.

I. Mr. Tomlinson's "Separation"

At the time this controversy arose, Mr. Tomlinson was fifty years old and was employed by HRS as a public assistance specialist II. He had been an employee of the state for approximately twenty-eight years. In February 1986, he severely injured his back while working in an HRS office in Wauchula. As a result, he was lawfully out of work for approximately one year and received workers' compensation benefits. He received medical treatment during that period.

When Mr. Tomlinson was physically able to return to work part-time, he was assigned to an HRS facility in Lake Wales. Initially, he worked half days and experienced significant pain. Eventually, his doctor advised that he could return to work full time. Upon returning to full-time

Page 64

work, he still experienced frequent back pain. He often lost time from work.

In January 1988, his supervisor, Ms. Tillett, counseled him because of his excessive absences and warned that further disciplinary action might be taken if he did not avoid unnecessary absences. Nevertheless, Mr. Tomlinson never received any written counseling or written disciplinary action for his absenteeism. At a counseling session, Mr. Tomlinson asked what procedure he should follow when he was absent because of back problems. At that session, Ms. Tillett advised him that he was not required to call in every day, but that he should wait until he saw his doctor before calling her to explain his status.

In August 1988, Ms. Tillett went to a meeting in Tallahassee. During her absence, Ms. Combee was in charge. It is undisputed that Mr. Tomlinson called Ms. Combee at the beginning of the work day on August 8, 1988. He told her that he would not be in to work that day because of illness. Whether Mr. Tomlinson told Ms. Combee his illness was a virus or a back problem is disputed. The parties also dispute whether Ms. Combee advised Mr. Tomlinson to call the following morning. It is undisputed, however, that Mr. Tomlinson did not call until Monday, August 15, 1988, after he had visited his doctor. By that time, Ms. Tillett had returned to the office. She advised him that HRS had decided his unexplained absence was a voluntary abandonment of his position and that he would receive written notification of separation from his position because of his voluntary abandonment.

II. The Administrative Appeal

Rule 22A-7.010 was promulgated by DOA to govern certain separations from state employment. Section 2(a) of that rule provides:

Abandonment of Position.

An employee who is absent without authorized leave of absence for 3 consecutive work days shall be deemed to have abandoned the position and to have resigned from the Career Service. An employee who has Career Service status and separates under such circumstances shall not have the right of appeal to the Public Employees Relations Commission; however, any such employee shall have the right to petition the department for a review of the facts in the case and a ruling as to whether the circumstances constitute abandonment of position.

The rule further describes the written notification of separation which the state must provide to an employee to announce the state's decision that the employee has abandoned his or her employment.

Once Mr. Tomlinson received his notice of separation, he filed a notice of appeal with both the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) and DOA. PERC entered an order dismissing the appeal as a petition for review of a separation order based on abandonment. PERC decided that the order invoked the jurisdiction of DOA. DOA accepted Mr. Tomlinson's notice of appeal and scheduled an administrative hearing. Following the hearing, the hearing officer found that Mr. Tomlinson had been absent between August 9 and 12, 1988, without authorized leave. The hearing officer's recommended order states:

The evidence presented at hearing leaves no doubt that Mr. Tomlinson was absent for more than three consecutive days and the resolution of the issue of whether he may thereby be deemed to have abandoned his position rests on the determination of whether his absence was without authorized leave of absence.

Mr. Tomlinson, it is clear, did not intend to separate from employment after 28 years of service. To be sure, his testimony of record clearly shows he intended to remain on the state payroll until he retired with 30 years service.

The proposed order further finds that:

19. There is no doubt that Petitioner suffers from a painful and debilitating back problem, incurred on duty with the State, which interferes with his duty performance and calls for his frequent absences. However, his absences, per se, are not the cause of his difficulty. He was terminated because he failed to properly notify his supervisors as to the

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fact and conditions of his absence as required.

(Emphasis supplied.)

III. Two Preliminary Concerns

Mr. Tomlinson challenges only the nature of the proof required to...

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8 practice notes
  • Childers v. State, No. 1D03-2154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 28, 2006
    ...626 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976) ], this case, and the rationale expressed in Tomlinson [v. State, Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) ]"). See generally S. States Utils. v. Fla. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 714 So.2d 1046, 1049 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (exercising en ba......
  • Childers v. State, No. 1D03-2154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 28, 2006
    ...626 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976)], this case, and the rationale expressed in Tomlinson [v. State, Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990)]"). See generally S. States Utils. v. Fla. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 714 So.2d 1046, 1049 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (exercising en banc......
  • McDonald v. Department of Professional Regulation, Bd. of Pilot Com'rs, No. 89-246
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • June 13, 1991
    ...regulated. I would affirm on the basis of issues briefed by the parties. See Tomlinson v. Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62, 66 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) (observing that "[i]t is at least arguable that DOA has broader authority to create reasonable presumptions for use a......
  • Jenkins v. State, Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services, No. 90-1710
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 27, 1993
    ...of Pilot Commissioners, 582 So.2d 660, 664 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); Tomlinson v. State, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA The abandonment/dismissal conundrum has been before this court and the other courts of Florida numerous times. In Board of Regents ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Childers v. State, No. 1D03-2154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 28, 2006
    ...626 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976) ], this case, and the rationale expressed in Tomlinson [v. State, Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) ]"). See generally S. States Utils. v. Fla. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 714 So.2d 1046, 1049 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (exercising en ba......
  • Childers v. State, No. 1D03-2154.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 28, 2006
    ...626 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976)], this case, and the rationale expressed in Tomlinson [v. State, Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990)]"). See generally S. States Utils. v. Fla. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 714 So.2d 1046, 1049 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (exercising en banc......
  • McDonald v. Department of Professional Regulation, Bd. of Pilot Com'rs, No. 89-246
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • June 13, 1991
    ...regulated. I would affirm on the basis of issues briefed by the parties. See Tomlinson v. Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62, 66 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) (observing that "[i]t is at least arguable that DOA has broader authority to create reasonable presumptions for use a......
  • Jenkins v. State, Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services, No. 90-1710
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • April 27, 1993
    ...of Pilot Commissioners, 582 So.2d 660, 664 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); Tomlinson v. State, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, 558 So.2d 62 (Fla. 2d DCA The abandonment/dismissal conundrum has been before this court and the other courts of Florida numerous times. In Board of Regents ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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