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Santore v. Unemployment Ins. Appeal Board

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

October 15, 2012

REBECCA SANTORE, Appellant
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEAL BOARD, Appellee

Submitted: August 24, 2012.

Upon Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.

Rebecca Santore, Appellant.

Caroline L. Cross, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Appellee

MEMORANDUM OPINION

HERLIHY, Judge.

Rebecca Santore ("Santore") has appealed a decision from the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ("Board") denying her unemployment benefits. Santore filed for unemployment benefits in July, 2011.[1] A Claims Deputy from the Department of Labor, Division of Unemployment Insurance, ("Department") found her ineligible for the receipt of unemployment benefits and issued an eligibility determination on August 8, 2011. The determination was mailed to Santore at her address of record on August 8, 2011, indicating also, an appeal had to be filed by August 18, 2011.[2] Santore filed an appeal of the Claims Deputy's determination on September 21, 2011 and a hearing was held before the Appeals Referee solely on the issue of timeliness of her appeal.[3] Following the hearing, the Appeals Referee held that the Claims Deputy's determination was final and binding, as the appeal was untimely filed.[4] Santore appealed to the Board. The Board affirmed the Claims Deputy's determination and held no severe circumstances were present in this case warranting the Board to overlook the untimeliness of the appeal.[5]

The Court finds there is substantial evidence to support the findings below and that the Board did not abuse its discretion when deciding not to hear Santore's appeal on the ineligibility determination. Accordingly, the Board's decision is AFFIRMED.

Factual Background

Santore was employed as a certified nursing assistant by Five Star Quality Care from January 18, 2011, until her discharge on July 18, 2011. She filed for unemployment benefits effective July 17, 2011. In two decisions, the Claims Deputy denied her claim and determined that she was not able to work or available for work on August 8, 2011. On August 8, 2011, the Department of Labor mailed Santore a letter, at her last address on record, informing her that she was not eligible for unemployment benefits. There was no record of the determination being returned to the Department as undeliverable by the United States Postal Service ("USPS").

The last day to timely appeal the Claims Deputy's determination was Thursday, August 18, 2011. Santore personally filed an appeal from that determination on September 21, 2011 at the local office. Additionally, she submitted a letter dated August 2, 2011, including docket number 10794654, which was only referenced in the Claims Deputy's August 8th determination. The Claims Deputy issued a determination that she failed to file a timely appeal.

A hearing on the sole issue of timeliness was held before the Appeals Referee on October 5, 2011. At the hearing, the Department witness testified that on September 21, 2011, Santore arrived at the office and filed an appeal from the Claims Deputy's determination. The Department's witness noted that the letter dated August 2nd was dated prior to the issuance of the determination denying her claim for unemployment benefits; the letter dated August 2nd referenced the determination denying benefits dated August 8th. Also, Santore's file contained letters dated August 12, 2011 and September 7, 2011, which were in an envelope postmarked September 19, 2011. The Department had no documentation suggesting an appeal was filed before September 21, 2011.

At the hearing, Santore testified that she mailed her appeal in the beginning of August, along with two additional letters. When she subsequently discovered the Department did not receive the appeal documents, she went to the unemployment office and filed it in person. Santore further testified that she wrote the appeal the same day she received the determination in the mail which, she believed, was August 2nd. She acknowledged, however, the appeal was not written on August 2nd because her case had not been determined at that time. Instead, she contends she wrote the appeal on August 9th and mailed it the next day. Her justification for the date of September 21st on her appeal of the Claims Deputy's determination was she reprinted the document on that date and her computer software automatically inserted that date on the letter template document.[6] Santore provided no proof of mailing of the appeal allegedly mailed before September 21st.[7]

Following the hearing, the Chief Appeals Referee affirmed the decision of the Claims Deputy based on Claimant's failure to file a timely appeal under 19 Del. C. § 3318(b). The Appeals Referee stated the following in his decision:

The claimant filed a claim for unemployment benefits and was made ineligible for receiving unemployment benefits in a determination that was dated and mailed to her on August 8, 2011 to her address of record . . . The last day the claimant had to file an appeal from the determination was August 18, 2011. The claimant reported to the unemployment office on September 21, 2011 and filed a late appeal. The Department of Labor has ...

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