Ullrich v. Thorpe Elec., 15524

Citation109 Idaho 820,712 P.2d 521
Decision Date09 July 1985
Docket NumberNo. 15524,15524
PartiesRayton F. ULLRICH, SSA 518 32 1025, Claimant-Respondent, v. THORPE ELECTRIC, Employer-Respondent, and State of Idaho, Department of Employment, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Lynn E. Thomas, Sol. Gen., Roger T. Martindale (argued), and Larry Weeks (on brief), Deputy Attys. Gen., Boise, for appellant Dept. of Employment.

Michael F. Peacock, Kellogg, for claimant-respondent.

SHEPARD, Justice.

This is an appeal by the State of Idaho, Department of Employment, from the Industrial Commission's decision awarding claimant unemployment compensation after claimant failed to accept an offer of employment. The issues concern the interpretation and application of I.C. § 72-1366(f) and (g), which pertain respectively to the eligibility requirement of willingness to accept suitable work, and to the statutory considerations for determining whether work is indeed suitable. We affirm the decision of the Industrial Commission, to the effect that while the work claimant offered was arguably suitable, nonetheless, claimant had good cause to reject it.

The facts of the case are as follows. Claimant worked as an electrician for the interested employer, Thorpe Electric, from February 1963 through February 1982, when he was laid off because the employer closed its business. Claimant was officially terminated on March 10, 1982. Members of the employer's family established a new corporation called Thorco, Inc. between February and March 1982, to carry on a business of the same nature as that which had been conducted by Thorpe Electric. Whereas Thorpe Electric had been a union shop, Thorco, Inc. had no hiring restrictions regarding union membership. Claimant had been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 73, for 25 years.

The new company, Thorco, informed claimant that it had some openings for jobs in claimant's line of work at wages comparable to what claimant had formerly been earning. The referee found, and the commission adopted as its own decision, the following facts:

"Claimant was in fact offered work with Thorco, Inc. in February, 1982, but declined the offer because he did not wish to jeopardize his union status.

"If the Claimant were to accept non-Union work ... with Thorco, Inc., he would not only be in violation of the Unions [sic] constitution and subject to fine, he would also lose his entitlement to pension benefits."

Claimant filed an application for unemployment compensation immediately after he was laid off. He received benefits from February 13, 1982 through April 30, 1983. He filed a new claim for extended benefits on March 3, 1983, which claim the employer protested on the basis that claimant had refused an offer of suitable employment. On August 2, 1983, a claims examiner of The appellant DOE relies upon I.C. § 72-1366(f) and (g), as support for its position that claimant should not receive unemployment compensation. Those provisions stated, in pertinent part, as of the time of the job offer in February 1982:

[109 Idaho 822] the Department of Employment (DOE) determined that claimant had refused available work, but that he had done so for good cause and was therefore eligible for benefits. The employer appealed, and a DOE appeals examiner, reversing the claims examiner, held that claimant had refused suitable work without good cause and was ineligible for benefits. Claimant appealed. The Industrial Commission ruled that the fact of Thorco's being a non-union shop did not render the offered work unsuitable. The commission did not decide whether the work was suitable, feeling that such determination was unnecessary, since it held that claimant had good cause for refusing the employment. The DOE appeals.

"72-1366. Personal eligibility conditions.--The personal eligibility conditions of a benefit claimant are that--

* * *

* * *

"(f) His unemployment is not due to his failure without good cause to apply for available suitable work as directed by a representative of the director or to accept suitable work when offered to him ...

* * *

* * *

"(g) In determining for the purposes of this act, whether or not work is suitable for an individual, the degree of risk involved to his health, safety, morals, his physical fitness, experience, training, past earnings, length of unemployment and prospects for obtaining local employment in his customary occupation, the distance of the work from his residence, and other pertinent factors shall be considered. No employment shall, in any event, be deemed suitable and benefits shall not be denied to any otherwise eligible individual for refusing to accept new work or to hold himself available for work under any of the following conditions:

(1) If the vacancy of the position offered is due directly to a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute;

(2) If the wages, hours, or other conditions of the work offered are substantially less favorable to the individual than those prevailing for similar work in the locality of the work offered;

(3) If, as a condition of being employed, the individual would be required to join a company union or to resign from or refrain from joining any bona fide labor organization.

* * *."

Subsection (f) of I.C. § 72-1366 was slightly amended in 1983, but that amendment is of no consequence to this case.

Clearly, the key terms in these statutes, for our purposes, are "good cause" and "suitable." These two terms are not necessarily coextensive; a claimant always has good cause to refuse work that is unsuitable, but one may also have good cause to refuse work that is suitable. Meyer v. Skyline Mobile Homes, 99 Idaho 754, 589 P.2d 89 (1979). The fact that a labor union will impose sanctions upon a member who accepts a non-union job in the type of work covered by the union's bargain agreements does not render such work "unsuitable" under the statutory language of I.C. § 72-1366(g). Norman v. Employment Security Agency, 83 Idaho 1, 356 P.2d 913 (1960) (interpreting I.C. § 72-1366(i)(3) (1959), which language is now found in I.C. § 72-1366(g)(3)). Here, the commission found, under Norman, that the non-union character of the offered work did not make it unsuitable. It follows that, since the work was the same as the claimant had formerly done, the commission must have considered it to be suitable employment. We do not disturb the commission's treatment of the suitability question, but we find, as did the commission, that the outcome here rests upon the existence of good cause to decline the admittedly available work.

The Industrial Commission found that, had claimant accepted non-union work "The claimant refused the offer of work because he would have lost his Union pension benefits if he had accepted the offer of non-Union work which was within his trade.

[109 Idaho 823] with Thorco, Inc., he would have been in violation of the union's constitution, would have been subject to fine, and would have lost his entitlement to certain pension benefits. The commission concluded:

"The referee concludes that the Claimant, in this case, had good cause for refusing the offer of work in a non-Union shop. At the time of the Industrial Commission hearing in this matter, the Claimant was fifty-one years of age and he had invested in excess of nineteen years of Union work in the accumulation of his Union pension benefits. The Claimant acted reasonably when, at the age of forty-nine with a number of years invested in his various Union pension plans, he declined an offer to work in a non-Union job because if he had accepted the job, that would have meant the loss of his Union pension benefits. The Claimant had real and substantial reasons for declining the February, 1982 Thorco, Inc. offer of work."

In reaching this finding, the commission relied upon testimony of claimant and of a union representative, regarding probable sanctions that would be imposed by the union in the event that claimant accepted non-union work as an electrician. The commission did not abuse its discretion in so interpreting the evidence. The meaning of "good cause" within the statute is a factual determination to be made by the commission on a case-by-case basis. Berger v. Nez Perce Sheriff, 105 Idaho 555, 671 P.2d 468 (1983); Ellis v. Northwest Fruit & Produce, 103 Idaho 821, 654 P.2d 914 (1982); Saulls v. Employment Security Agency, 85 Idaho 212, 377 P.2d 789 (1963). We will not overturn the commission's decision, where it is supported by substantial...

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  • Spruell v. Allied Meadows Corp.
    • United States
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    ...and competent evidence in the record. Burnside v. Gate City Steel Corp., 112 Idaho 1040, 739 P.2d 339 (1987); Ullrich v. Thorpe Elec., 109 Idaho 820, 712 P.2d 521 (1985); Booth v. City of Burley, 99 Idaho 229, 580 P.2d 75 (1978). As stated in Booth, we declined to "independently adopt findi......
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    ...and competent evidence in the record. Burnside v. Gate City Steel Corp., 112 Idaho 1040, 739 P.2d 339 (1987); Ullrich v. Thorpe Elec., 109 Idaho 820, 712 P.2d 521 (1985); Booth v. City of Burley, 99 Idaho 229, 580 P.2d 75 (1978). As stated in Booth, we decline to "independently adopt findin......
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    ...by a claimant is "suitable" work, and also whether the claimant had "good cause" to refuse to accept such work. Ullrich v. Thorpe Electric, 109 Idaho 820, 712 P.2d 521 (1985); Plante v. Ken's Electric, 108 Idaho 809, 702 P.2d 847 (1985). As stated in Meyer v. Skyline Mobile Homes, 99 Idaho ......
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