Mason v Gainey Transportation Service, Inc – 10.106

Mason v Gainey Transportation Service, Inc
Digest no. 10.106

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Mason v Gainey Transportation Service, Inc, Unpublished Opinion of the Kent County Circuit Court, Issued June 9, 2005 (Docket No. 05-01669-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Tina Mason
Employer: Gainey Transportation Service, Inc.
Docket no.: 05-01669-AE
Date of decision: June 9, 2005

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HOLDING: An employer causing an employee to suffer a substantial unilateral reduction in pay and creating unreasonable intrusions into employee’s personal life may constitute a non-disqualifying good cause for quitting her employment.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a truck driver with Employer beginning in October, 1999. When she was hired, she was told that she would be paid based on the number of miles driven and could expect to make approximately $600.00 per week. She made the expected amount at the beginning of her employment, but the number of job assignments began to reduce, and she earned approximately 10.5% less than her expected pay during the first five months of 2003. On May 22, 2003, Claimant was dispatched to Knoxville, Tennessee to pick up a load of merchandise, only to find out the load had been cancelled when she arrived on the next day, which was a Friday. At this time, Claimant was instructed by Employer to wait until the following Tuesday, after Memorial Day, for a possible replacement load which was not guaranteed. Due to this cancellation, other similar cancellations, her declining income, and the prospect of losing Memorial Day weekend, Claimant resigned from her job and went home.

Claimant’s application for unemployment benefits was initially granted, but reversed after Employer’s protest. On Claimant’s appeal, an ALJ held that Claimant was eligible for full benefits, and that she had good cause to quit due to her decreased and “inadequate” income. On appeal, the Board of Review reversed the ALJ, holding that Claimant had not established that the variance in miles was a sufficient breach in her conditions of employment, or that her decreased earnings “made the work unsuitable.” Claimant appealed to the Circuit Court.

DECISION: The Board of Review decision is reversed. Claimant is entitled to employment benefits.

RATIONALE: While the Circuit Court recognized that administrative decisions of the Board of Review are entitled to great deference, it found that the standards the Board of Review used to reach its decision were contrary to law. The proper standard to find non-disqualifying good cause attributable to the employer includes “any situation which would justify a reasonably prudent employee giving up a position.” The Circuit Court’s review of the Board of Appeals decision also took into account that the Court of Appeals had previously held that a substantial unilateral reduction in pay constitutes non-disqualifying good cause for quitting employment under Section 29(1)(a). Having reviewed the facts of the case under the proper standard as established by statute precedent, the Circuit Court determined that a reasonable employee in Claimant’s position would quit after being subjected to a substantial decrease of their income and unreasonable intrusions into her personal life, and to hold otherwise would be to improperly rewrite the language of Section 29(1)(a).

Digest Author: Nick Phillips
Digest Editor: Jack Battaglia
Digest Updated: 8/14