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Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Inc. v. Corbin

Superior Court of Delaware

August 8, 2019

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF DELAWARE, INC., Appellant,
v.
YOLANDA M. CORBIN and, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.

          Submitted: May 30, 2019

          Appeal From the Decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.

          Jennifer Gimler Brady, Esquire and Jennifer Penberthy Buckley, Esquire, POTTER ANDERSON & CORROON, LLP, Attorneys for Appellant Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Inc.

          Scott T. Earle, Esquire and Zachary A. Silverstein, Esquire, ZARWIN BAUM DEVITO KAPLAN SCHAER TODDY, P.C., Attorneys for Appellee Corbin.

          Daniel C. Mulveny, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General for the STATE OF DELAWARE, Attorney for Appellee Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES E. BUTLER, JUDGE.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Yolanda Corbin ("Corbin" or "Claimant") worked at Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Inc. ("PPDE"), as a revenue cycle manager from March 2015 until August 14, 2017, when she was terminated. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Corbin filed a claim for unemployment benefits.

         Ms. Corbin's termination came at the end of a string of problems with her employment resulting in a number personnel actions.[1] In October 2015 there was a "coaching plan" formalizing some of her shortcomings on the job.[2] In January 2017 there was a "verbal warning" followed by a "compliance discussion."[3] By July of 2017, Corbin was given a "performance improvement plan."[4]

         Then, in August 2017, PPDE learned that Corbin had approached an employee in the payroll department and told her she (Corbin) was "working on a project regarding people's salary" and seeking pay information on other employees within PPDE.[5] In fact, Corbin was not working on an employer-authorized project and salary disclosures violated an employer's privacy policy. This became the "final straw" and triggered Corbin's termination.

         In its formal notice of termination, PPDE listed the following deficiencies as the basis for its actions: 1) Corbin misrepresented to a payroll clerk that Corbin was working on a project and needed management pay information; 2) failed to meet the basic competencies of her position despite multiple coaching and performance improvement communications; 3) reacted poorly to coaching and feedback, including responding with emails to her supervisor and HR manager with malicious, false and harmful statements; and 4) failed to take responsibility for completing her work and instead passing it off to others.[6]

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Upon application for unemployment benefits, PPDE filed a response. A claims deputy ruled that Corbin's termination was without just cause and she was eligible to receive unemployment benefits as a result.[7] PPDE appealed that determination.

         The dispute then came to an appeals referee, who heard the evidence de novo, on a record that was transcribed.[8] At that hearing, the Human Resources manager for PPDE explained that the performance improvement plan was an effort to bring Corbin's performance up to par, but her dishonesty in requesting management pay information was a step beyond the employer's tolerance, and she was terminated.[9]

         The appeals referee reversed the ruling of the claims deputy, concluding that Corbin was not entitled to benefits. The appeals referee ruled:

While poor performance without proof of intentional or gross misconduct as its cause will not disqualify a discharged individual from the receipt of unemployment insurance benefits, this tribunal is left with the impression that her failure to satisfactorily meet expectations was essentially intentionally insubordinate. However, the final incident Claimant is alleged to have committed makes the issue moot, in that it allows for the immediate termination of employment for any such violation.[10]

Ms. Corbin then appealed the referee's decision to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ("UIAB").

         At the UIAB hearing, the Board asked the parties to limit their presentation to materials not already in the record as the Board had the record of proceedings before the appeals referee. Corbin testified before the Board that she worked in the finance area of PPDE and had access to the pay information of all employees. She denied having asked any other employee to look up pay information of other employees on her behalf. Finally, she testified that other employees had accessed employee pay information without discipline. PPDE appeared at the hearing, but rested on the record established before the appeals referee.

         The UIAB reversed the appeals referee and sided with Corbin. As to her work performance, the Board said only that "[t]he majority finds that Employer has failed to provide sufficient evidence showing that Claimant's substandard conduct was willful such that there were would be just cause to terminate Claimant."[11]' As to the final straw evidence that Corbin asked a coworker to look up salary information as part of a project Corbin was working on, the Board, pointing to Corbin's claim that others had looked up such information in the past without discipline, held that "Employer's evidence does not sufficiently outweigh Claimant's evidence that the majority can conclude there was just cause to terminate Claimant."[12]

         PPDE has appealed the decision of the UIAB, invoking this Court's jurisdiction for appellate review.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court is limited to consideration of the record before the administrative agency when reviewing UIAB decisions.[13] The Court must determine whether the board findings of fact and conclusions of law are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record.[14] The Court does not weigh evidence, determine issues of credibility related to testimony or the record, or make its own findings of fact.[15] Sitting in ...


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