Worrall v. Dep't of Labor, 2021-164

Docket Nº2021-164
Citation2022 VT 46
Case DateSeptember 23, 2022
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

2022 VT 46

Joseph Worrall
v.
Department of Labor (Snowfire Ltd., Employer)

No. 2021-164

Supreme Court of Vermont

September 23, 2022


On Appeal from Employment Security Board Jared Adler, Chair

Matthew M. Shagam of Rich Cassidy Law, South Burlington, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Dirk Anderson, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellee.

Lorrie Johnson, Authorized Agent, Waterbury, for Respondent-Appellee Snowfire.

PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Eaton, Carroll and Cohen, JJ., and Durkin, Supr. J., Specially Assigned

COHEN, J.

¶ 1. Claimant challenges a decision by the Employment Security Board finding him ineligible for unemployment compensation and liable to the Vermont Department of Labor for an overpayment. We affirm.

¶ 2. Claimant sought unemployment compensation in March 2020 and received benefits. In November 2020, a claims adjudicator found that claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits as of the week ending May 2, 2020, because he left his employment voluntarily

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without good cause attributable to his employer. The claims adjudicator determined that claimant was obligated to repay $15,028 in overpaid benefits.[*]

¶ 3. Claimant appealed this decision to an administrative law judge (ALJ). After a hearing, the ALJ made the following findings. Claimant worked full-time for employer Snowfire, Ltd. as a service adviser and technician. He was temporarily laid off on March 27, 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Employer rehired claimant effective April 17, 2020. It paid wages to claimant from April 17, 2020 to April 23, 2020 from its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan but it did not require claimant to work for these wages. Claimant returned to work on April 24, 2020, and his last day of work was April 27, 2020. He worked just over six hours on April 24 and just over two hours on April 27. For the pay period ending April 30, 2020, employer also paid claimant approximately thirty-two hours of gross vacation pay.

¶ 4. The ALJ found that, for much of his employment, claimant expressed a desire to leave Vermont in search of better job opportunities in the science field. On April 27, 2020, claimant told his general manager that he planned to move to Massachusetts the following month to look for a job in the science field. The move held additional appeal because claimant's mother lived in Massachusetts. Claimant's mother was a cancer survivor in her seventies.

¶ 5. Claimant traveled between Vermont and his mother's home in April and May 2020. During these visits, claimant delivered some of his personal effects to Massachusetts. The ALJ found it unclear when claimant actually relocated to Massachusetts. On May 7, 2020, claimant's mother had a stroke. Claimant was in Vermont at the time and traveled to Massachusetts within a day or two thereafter. He returned to Vermont sometime before May 29, 2020.

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¶ 6. Claimant filed a weekly claim certification for the week ending April 25, 2020. He reported working six hours and earning wages. On a claim certification for the following week, claimant indicated that he did not quit a job or receive any vacation pay. He reported working forty hours and earning wages. Claimant was paid his weekly benefit amount for each of the weeks ending May 16, 2020 through October 24, 2020. He also received Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits for the weeks ending May 16, 2020 through July 25, 2020.

¶ 7. The ALJ found that claimant left his employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employer and he was therefore disqualified from receiving benefits under 21 V.S.A. § 1344(a)(2)(A). The ALJ rejected claimant's argument that he did not perform any work for employer after his March 2020 layoff. She credited the testimony of employer's witness who testified that claimant performed work on April 24, 2020 and April 27, 2020. Employer also submitted a time sheet and pay records corroborating this testimony. The ALJ found no dispute that employer paid and claimant accepted wages for working on these two dates. Given this, the ALJ did not credit claimant's testimony that he had not returned to work. She thus concluded that...

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