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Layfield v. Mountaire Farms of Delaware, Inc

Superior Court of Delaware

February 10, 2015

Layfield
v.
Mountaire Farms of Delaware, Inc.

Gorettie Norgues Pro se Appellant

Paige J. Schmittinger Deputy Attorney General Department of Justice

Dear Parties:

Before the Court is an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ("UIAB") with regard to claimant Gorettie Norgues's ("Claimant") denial of unemployment insurance benefits. For the reasons that follow, the Board's decision is AFFIRMED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Claimant was employed by Mountaire Farms ("Employer") as a General Laborer from May 27, 2010 through December 10, 2013; she was a full-time employee and earned $11.50 per hour.[1]Claimant worked in the "thigh d-bone" department at Employer.[2] There, Claimant worked on a line with 11 other employees.[3] On the day of her termination, she was the last person on the line.[4] The last person on the line reviews the final product and makes sure that no chicken meat has any extra bones or skin in and on it before packaging.[5] Claimant was brought down to Employer's Human Resources office ("HR") by her supervisor for an oral reprimand.[6] According to Claimant, a piece of chicken made it down the line with a bone, and she was singled out by her supervisor.[7] Employer claims Claimant was brought down to HR so they could use an interpreter[8] to let her know what she did wrong; this was the first time Employer ever had a problem with Claimant's work performance.[9]

Claimant was asked to sign a warning notice, which she refused. [10] She alleges that upon refusal, she was asked for her employee identification ("ID"), which she was reluctant to turn over out of fear of being terminated.[11] She claims she was fearful due to alleged statements made by others in her department along the lines of they "did not want an old lady on their team."[12]Employer, however, maintains that Claimant was only receiving an oral warning for her work performance, but her reaction turned into a commotion, which ultimately resulted in her termination.[13]

When brought in to HR for her oral warning, Claimant started "going off, " cussing and screaming at her supervisors, telling them to "kiss my ass" and referring to them as "motherfuckers."[14] Claimant's supervisors asked her to calm down and instructed her to give them her ID as a result.[15] She refused and continued to use profanity towards them.[16] This tyraid carried over into the hallway during a shift change, disrupting the flow of employee traffic.[17] Several outside prospective employees, who were waiting for interviews at Employer, also observed the scene unfold.[18] Claimant was eventually brought back into HR and told that she would be suspended from work pending a company decision as to her termination.[19] She was asked to sign paper work with regard to her suspension, but she refused signature.[20] Claimant was then asked to leave the building and was escorted off the property after Employer threatened to call the police.[21]

When Claimant was hired, she received copies of Employer's employment police in both English and Creole.[22] Employer's policy noted, specifically, that "[f]ighting or using obscene, abusive, or threatening language or gestures, " and "[e]ngaging in insubordination, including refusal to perform assignments, " were actions Employer found inappropriate.[23] Employer's policy also states "[i]f your performance, work habits, overall disposition or conduct becomes unsatisfactory in the judgment of [Employer], based on violations either of the above or any other [Employer] polices, rules, or regulations, you will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination."[24]Claimant signed an acknowledgment that she had received the policies and was aware what conduct was acceptable and the range of disciplinary actions that could be taken.[25]

Claimant filed for Unemployment Insurance Benefits on December 13, 2013.[26] On December 23, 2013, Employer filed a separation notice, pursuant to 19 Del. C. §3317, explaining Claimant was terminated for insubordination.[27] As a result, the Claims Deputy ("Deputy") denied Claimant benefits, determining that she was discharged for just cause.[28] Claimant timely appealed, pursuant to 19 Del. C. §3318.[29] The Claims Referee ("Referee") affirmed the Deputy's decision.[30] Claimant then filed a timely appeal to the UIAB, which affirmed the decision of the Referee.[31] Claimant has subsequently filed an appeal with this Court pursuant to 19 Del. C. §3323.[32]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing appeals from the UIAB, this Court examines only the record upon which the UIAB relied in making its decision.[33] The Court must ascertain whether the UIAB's conclusions are supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.[34] The necessary degree of evidence is only "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."[35] "To prevail on appeal, the appellant must show the Board committed an error of law or demonstrate the findings of the Board are not supported by substantial evidence" in the record.[36]Where a party with the burden of proof fails to convince the UIAB, the resulting factual findings can only be overturned by the Court due to errors of law, inconsistences, or capricious disregard for competent evidence.[37] Evaluating the evidence, determining credibility issues, and deciphering factual questions are not within the Court's purview.[38] "Consequently, if there is substantial evidence and no legal error, the court will affirm the Board's decision."[39]

Discussion

__ The Delaware General Assembly has ...

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