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Feeney-Wathen v. Bayhealth Medical Center

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

May 9, 2014


Submitted: April 23, 2014

Upon an Appeal from a Decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

Reversed and Remanded. Brian T.N. Jordan, Esquire of Jordan Law, LLC, Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for Appellant.

James H. McMackin, III, Esquire and Allyson B. Dirocco, Esquire of Morris James LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; attorneys for Bayhealth Medical Center.

James T. Wakley, Esquire of the Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware; attorney for the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.


William L. Witham, Jr. Resident Judge

Before the Court is Appellant Cheryl Feeney-Wathen's (hereinafter "Appellant") appeal from the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board (hereinafter "the Board" or "the UIAB") disqualifying Appellant from receiving unemployment benefits. The Court has carefully considered the record and the filings of Appellant and Appellee Bayhealth Medical Center (hereinafter "Employer"). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Board is reversed.


Appellant worked for Employer as a full-time hospital security officer at Employer's Milford facility from May 16, 2011 until May 13, 2013. Employer also operates medical facilities in Dover and Smyrna. Appellant commuted to the Milford location from Appellant's home in Millsboro.

In November of 2012, Appellant went on paid medical leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. Appellant's leave expired on January 3, 2013. By letter dated February 11, 2013 Appellant's supervisor at the time, Robert Rogers (hereinafter "Rogers") advised Appellant that her medical leave had been exhausted. Rogers informed Appellant that because it was not foreseeable that Appellant could return to work within the next 30 days, Employer would pursue candidates to fill Appellant's position at the Milford facility. Rogers advised Appellant that if her position was filled, Appellant would remain on medical leave as an active employee until May 13, 2013, at which time Appellant would be "administratively separated" from Employer. Rogers' letter further stated that if A ppellant's healthcare provider released her to work prior to the May 13 separation date, Appellant would be provided a 30-day grace period to secure alternate employment within Employer. Rogers informed Appellant that if Appellant did not secure a position at the end of this 30-day period, Appellant would be administratively separated, but would be eligible for rehire.

Appellant was released to return to work on April 17, 2013. Appellant's former position at the Milford facility had been filled. Employer offered Appellant a security officer position at the Smyrna campus, where Appellant could work until a position opened at the Milford campus. Appellant turned down the offer because of the distance of Smyrna from her home in Millsboro. Appellant was subsequently administratively separated on May 13, 2013.

Appellant filed a claim for unemployment benefits on May 19, 2013. By determination dated June 20, 2013, a Claims Deputy with the Department of Labor found that Appellant was not disqualified from receiving benefits because Appellant was terminated without just cause in connection with her work under 19 Del. C. § 3314(2). Employer appealed the determination.

A hearing was conducted by the Appeals Referee on August 1, 2013 via telephone. Appellant testified at the hearing, as did several witnesses for Employer. By decision dated August 2, 2013 the Appeals Referee affirmed the Claims Deputy's determination, and found that Appellant's employment was terminated for administrative reasons, which did not amount to just cause for termination. In a footnote, the Appeals Referee noted: "the Department [of Labor] regards a work location that is more than 17.5 miles from the claimant's current work location to be of an unreasonable distance. That is, it may constitute good cause to quit or refuse a job offer."

Employer appealed the Appeals Referee's decision, and a hearing was held before the Board on October 9, 2013. Radford Garrison (hereinafter "Garrison"), security supervisor for all of Employer's campuses, testified that Appellant had contacted Garrison about a position for when she was released back to work, and Garrison had ...

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