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Hurtt v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board

Superior Court of Delaware

April 10, 2019

Jehu S. Hurtt, Appellant,
v.
Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Appellee.

          Submitted: January 16, 2019

          Upon Appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board:

          Jehu S. Hurtt, pro se, Appellant.

          Victoria W. Counihan, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Attorney for Appellee Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance.

          ORDER

          Sheldon K. Rennie, Judge.

         This 10th day of April, 2019, upon consideration of the pro se appeal[1] of Jehu S. Hurtt ("Hurtt") from the August 27, 2018 decision[2] of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board denying Hurtt's petition for unemployment benefits, and the entire record in this case, it appears to the Court that:

         1. Hurtt was employed by Perdue Foods, Inc. (the "Employer") as a general laborer since December 2016.[3] Sometime in April 2018, Hurtt was injured while on vacation.[4] Hurtt was cleared to return to work by his primary care physician as of April l6, 2Ol8.[5] Hurtt was able to work on April 17-18, 2018.[6] On April 19, 2018, Hurtt was transferred to another department of the Employer and assigned new duties that were different from what he did before.[7] Hurtt could not perform his new job function without pain.[8] Hurtt's Employer had a policy that did not permit injured employees to continue to work with restrictions or pain due to that injury.[9] Hurtt's Employer thus dismissed him on April 19, 2018 based on his inability to work.[10]

         2. Hurtt filed a petition for unemployment benefits. On May 22, 2018, a Claims Deputy denied Hurtt's petition[11] pursuant to 19 Del. C. § 3314(8), which provides that an individual shall be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if the "total or partial unemployment is due to the individual's inability to work."[12] The statute also provides that such disqualification shall terminate if the individual becomes able to work as substantiated by a doctor's certificate.[13] The Claims Deputy determined that Hurtt was not eligible for benefits, because he was unable to work for medical reasons.[14] Hurtt appealed the disqualification determination to an Appeals Referee. The Appeals Referee held a hearing, [15] and affirmed the Claims Deputy's denial of benefits.[16]

         3. Hurtt appealed the Appeals Referee's decision to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (the "Board"). A hearing was conducted on August 22, 2018, [17] and the Board issued a decision, on August 27, 2018, affirming the Appeals Referee. Specifically, the Board found that Hurtt was medically unable to work on and after April 19, 2018.[18] The Board also found that Hurtt did not present any evidence showing he was medically cleared for work.[19] On that basis the Board concluded that Hurtt was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits under 19 Del. C. § 3314(8).[20] This appeal followed.

         4. The Court's review of an appeal from a decision of the Board is limited to determining whether the Board's decision is "free from legal error" and supported by "substantial evidence."[21] "Substantial evidence" is found where the record contains evidence that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."[22] Hurtt does not assert that any legal error occurred here. Thus, the only issue before the Court is whether the Board's conclusion disqualifying Hurtt from unemployment benefits was supported by substantial evidence. The Court finds that it was.

         5. Hurtt contends that he was physically able to and available for work, but simply not permitted by his Employer to stay in his previous position. This is completely contrary to the record. At both hearings that were conducted by the Appeals Referee and the Board, respectively, Hurtt admitted that doing the assigned job duties caused him pain.[23] Hence, his Employer's decision to discharge him was due to his inability to work for medical reasons.[24] Moreover, there is no documentation in the record releasing Hurtt back to work.[25] Hurtt attached two exhibits to his appellate briefs which purportedly serve as the statutorily required certificate demonstrating his ability to work.[26] These two documents were not submitted to the Board, and not part of the record. Therefore, the Court cannot take them into consideration in this appeal.[27]

         6. Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the Board's finding that Hurtt's unemployment was due to his inability to work. Therefore, the Board's denial of Hurtt's unemployment benefits on that basis is hereby AFFIRMED, IT IS SO ORDERED.

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