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Tsakiris v. J. P. Morgan Chase

Superior Court of Delaware

April 26, 2017


          Submitted: January 17, 2017

         Upon Consideration of Appeal from The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.


          Charles E. Butler, Judge

         This 26th day of April, 2017, upon consideration of the pro se appeal of Antonios Tsakiris ("Claimant") from the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board (the "Board"), finding that Claimant is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits pursuant to 19 Del. C. § 3314(2) and is liable for an overpayment in the amount of $2, 310.00, it appears that:

         1. Claimant was employed as a Financial Control Analyst by J.P. Morgan Chase (the "Employer") from 2012 through February 2016 on a full-time basis at an unknown rate per hour. Due to a number of performance issues, Employer discharged Claimant in February 2016.

         2. Claimant filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits on February 7, 2016. A Division Claims Deputy (the "Claims Deputy") issued a determination on March 9, 2016 that found Claimant was discharged without just cause and therefore eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits at a weekly benefit amount of $330.00. The Notice of Determination was mailed to Claimant's address of record at the time. There is no evidence that the notice was returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service. It is helpful to the discussion below to note that the determination of Claimant's qualification to receive benefits was assigned Case No. 0120385.

         3. The qualification determination by the Claims Deputy was timely appealed by Employer and a hearing was held before an appeals referee (the "Referee") on April 14, 2016. At the hearing, Employer appeared by telephone. Claimant did not appear either in person or by telephone. The Referee heard detailed testimony from Employer regarding Claimant's recurring issues in his job performance. The Referee held that Claimant's clear disregard for Employer's business, prior history of written warnings and having been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan amounted to just cause for his termination. Reversing the decision of the Claims Deputy, on April 18, 2016 the Referee found Claimant to be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits pursuant to 19 Del. C. § 3314(2), from the week he was discharged with just cause and for each week thereafter.

         4. Unless a claimant files an appeal within 10 calendar days after the qualification determination was mailed, the determination is final.[1] The 10-day period for filing an appeal begins to run on the date of mailing unless the mailing fails to reach a party because of some mistake made by employees of the Department of Labor.[2] The Referee found Claimant to be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits on April 18, 2016, making the disqualification finding, Case No. 0120385, final on April 28, 2016. Claimant did not file his appeal to the Appeal Board until June 22, 2016.[3] The Court sees no basis upon which to find that the Board abused its discretion in refusing to consider Claimant's appeal, filed 54 days past the final determination by the Referee.

         5. Claimant's appeal to this Court involves two separate proceedings. With the finalization of the disqualification determination marking the completion of the first stage, the Division began a separate administrative proceeding to establish the overpayment amount and require that amount be recouped by payment to the Division.[4] The overpayment matter was assigned a separate case number by the Division, Case No. 61028910.

         6. On May 16, 2016, the Claims Deputy issued an overpayment determination in accordance with 19 Del. C. § 3325, establishing an overpayment in the amount of $2, 310.00 for 7 weeks during the time period of February 27, 2016 to April 9, 2016 and seeking to recoup the overpaid benefits. Claimant filed a timely appeal of the overpayment determination for which the Appeals Referee held a hearing on June 14, 2016. The Appeals Referee upheld the decision of the Claims Deputy based upon the evidence presented at the hearing, proving the amount of benefits paid to Claimant during the disqualification period. Claimant 'admitted in his testimony to the Appeals Referee that he received the benefit payments. Claimant then appealed the Referee's decision to the Board, and simultaneously filed a late appeal of the disqualification finding on June 22, 2016. The Board issued a consolidated decision in both Case No. 31028910, the overpayment determination, and Case No. 0120385, the disqualification finding. The Board found that: (1) the appeal of the disqualification finding was untimely and affirmed the disqualification decision holding that it was a final and binding decision; and (2) affirmed the overpayment determination.

         7. The Court's review is limited to a determination of whether the Board's decision is supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.[5]Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion of law."[6] On appeal, this Court will not "weigh the evidence, determine questions of credibility, or make its own factual findings."[7]Errors of law are reviewed de novo[8] In the absence of legal error, the Board's decision is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.[9] The Board has abused its discretion only when its decision "exceeds the bounds of reason in view of the circumstances and has ignored recognized law or practice so as to produce injustice."[10]

         8. In Smith v. Unemployment Ins. Appeal Board, the Court established that when it has been determined that the claimant was found ineligible to receive unemployment benefits, the issue before the Court becomes whether or not claimant received those benefits, not whether or not the claimant was eligible for the benefits.[11] 19 Del. C. § 3325 provides as follows:

"Any person who has received any sum as benefits under this chapter to which it is finally determined that the person was not entitled shall be liable to repay in cash said overpayment, to the Department for the Unemployment Compensation Fund, or to have such sum deduced from future benefits payable to the person under this chapter. The person shall be so liable regardless of whether such sum was received through fraud or mistake, or whether that person was legally awarded the payment of benefits at the time but on appeal was subsequently found not to be entitled thereto." (emphasis added)

         9. The determination of Claimant's disqualification from unemployment benefits, Case No. 0120385, became final on April 28, 2016 when Claimant did not file his appeal within the 10-day deadline. Where a claimant has received adequate notice of a disqualification decision and of the right to appeal it, the claimant cannot appeal the merits of ...

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