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Schaeffer v. Giant of Maryland, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware

June 28, 2018

Schaeffer
v.
Giant of Maryland, LLC,

          Date Submitted: June 20, 2018

          On Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board: AFFIRMED

         Dear Mr. Schaeffer

         David Schaeffer appeals the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ("the Board") finding Mr. Schaeffer had been discharged from his place of employment for just cause in connection with that employment. The Board's decision is affirmed for the reasons stated below.

         Nature and Stage of the Proceedings

         Mr. Schaeffer worked as a courtesy clerk/bagger for Giant of Maryland, LLC ("Employer") from February 20, 2016, until Employer discharged him on June 28, 2017. Mr. Schaeffer subsequently filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. A Claims Deputy denied his request on July 18, 2017. The Claims Deputy concluded Employer discharged Mr. Schaeffer for his failure to comply with Employer's attendance policy and noted Mr. Schaeffer had received prior warnings for unexcused absences from work. Mr. Schaeffer appealed this determination and an Appeals

          Referee held a hearing on the matter on August 8, 2017. The Appeals Referee heard testimony from Mr. Schaeffer and Employer's representative, Mark Rhodes. By way of written decision mailed August 24, 2017, the Appeals Referee affirmed the Claims Deputy's decision. Mr. Schaeffer subsequently filed an appeal with the Board. The Board held a hearing on the matter on September 13, 2017. Mr. Schaeffer testified before the Board. Employer did not appear at the Board hearing. By way of written decision mailed October 24, 2017, the Board affirmed the Appeals Referee's decision. Mr. Schaeffer filed a timely appeal with this Court and the matter is ripe for decision.

         Discussion

         When reviewing a decision of the Board, this Court must determine whether the Board's findings and conclusions of law are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence in the record.[1] "Substantial evidence" is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."[2] The Court's review is limited: "It is not the appellate court's role to weigh the evidence, determine credibility questions or make its own factual findings, but merely to decide if the evidence is legally adequate to support the agency's factual findings."[3]

         Section 3314 of Title 19 of the Delaware Code provides, in pertinent part, that one shall be disqualified for unemployment benefits if he has been "discharged from [his] work for just cause in connection with [his] work."[4] "Generally, the term 'just cause' refers to a wilful or wanton act in violation of either the employer's interest, or of the employee's duties, or of the employee's expected standard of conduct."[5] Violation of a reasonable company policy may constitute just cause for termination, provided the employee is aware of the policy and the fact that the violation thereof may result in the employee's termination.[6] Knowledge of a company policy may be established by evidence of a written policy.[7]

         In this case, the Board made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

The Referee concluded, and the Board agrees, that the Employer had an attendance policy, acknowledged by the Claimant. The Employer also progressively warned the Claimant regarding his attendance. He missed his scheduled shifts on June 27th and June 29th. He provided no doctor's notes for those specific dates. As a result, the Employer had just cause for discharging the Claimant.[8]

         On appeal, Mr. Schaeffer challenges validity of the termination notice because, he argues, some of his previous absences were medically justified. Under Employer's progressive warning system, Mr. Schaeffer posits he would have merited a warning versus termination for his absences on the 27th and 29th. Although it is true that Employer used a progressive warning system as a matter of course, such a procedure was not required by Employer's attendance policy.

         Employer's attendance policy is contained in its "Statement of Policy for Store Associates" ("the Policy"), which was admitted as an exhibit at the hearing before the Appeals Referee. Under the heading ...


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