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Pumphrey v. Allen Harim Foods

Superior Court of Delaware

August 26, 2019

TIMOTHY D. PUMPHREY, Appellant,
v.
ALLEN HARIM FOODS and UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEAL BOARD, Appellee.

          Submitted: 7/3/19

         On Appeal from a Decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. Affirmed.

          Timothy D. Pumphrey, Pro Se Appellant.

          Daniel C. Mulveny, Esq., and Victoria W. Counihan, Esq., Department of Justice, Carvel, Attorneys for Appellee, Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.

          Allen Harim.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STOKES, R.J.

         I. Introduction

         Timothy Pumphrey ("Appellant") has appealed the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ("UIAB" or "Board") to deny Appellant's untimely appeal of the decision of the Appeals Referee. Neither the Board nor the employer has participated in this appeal. For the reasons stated herein, the decision is AFFIRMED.

         II. Factual and Procedural History

         Appellant was terminated from his employment with Allen Harim Foods ("Employer"). Employer terminated Appellant for alleged poor performance of responsibilities such as failure to respond to emails, complaints, and lack of proficiency in Kronos. 1 Employer terminated Appellant on June 22, 2018, while Appellant was on medical leave.

         On July 22, 2018, Appellant applied for unemployment compensation benefits. A Claims Deputy determined that Appellant was discharged from his employment, without just cause, and was entitled to recovery of unemployment compensation benefits. On September 5, 2018, an Appeals Referee affirmed the decision of the Claims Deputy.

         However, a second hearing was held on the matter of overpayment of unemployment compensation benefits to Appellant. The Claims Deputy at this hearing determined that Appellant received benefits, to which he was not entitled, and that there was an overpayment as determined by the Department of Labor. Appellant appealed the decision of the Claims Deputy and had a hearing in front of an Appeals Referee on October 18, 2018. The Appeals Referee affirmed the decision of the Claims Deputy. In the Appeals Referee's written decision she reasoned that Appellant was not eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits for the dates of June 23, 2018, June 30, 2018, July 7, 2018, and July 14, 2018. The Appeals Referee reasoned that Appellant was not eligible for these payments because he did not file his claim until July 22, 2018 and that 19 Del. C. § 3315 holds that an individual cannot be found eligible to receive benefits for weeks prior to the time the individual opens a claim for unemployment benefits.[2]

         The decision of the Appeals Referee was mailed to Appellant on October 24, 2018. The decision stated that the last day to file an appeal with the Board before it became final and binding was November 3, 2018. On November 8, 2018, Appellant filed an appeal of the Appeal Referee's decision with the UIAB. On November 13, 2018, Appellant had a hearing before the UIAB and on November 28, 2018, the UIAB mailed Appellant its written decision affirming the determination of the Appeals Referee. The UIAB determined that Appellant's appeal was untimely under 19 Del. C. § 3318(c)[3] and declined to exercise its discretion under 19 Del C. § 3320[4] to accept the appeal sua sponte.

         The UIAB held that pursuant to 19 Del C. § 3318(c), the Referee's Decision "shall be deemed final unless within 10 days after the date of notification or mailing of such decision further appeal [the Board] is initiated pursuant to § 3220 of this title." Further, the UIAB reasoned that the statutory time limit is jurisdictional and noted that it may, in cases of severe circumstances, exercise its discretion under § 3220 to accept an appeal sua sponte. However, the UIAB declined to exercise its discretion under § 3220 because the UIAB found no evidence of Departmental error that prevented Appellant from filing a timely appeal of the Referee's Decision. Nor has Appellant provided any evidence of any severe circumstances sufficient to justify the exercise of the UIAB's discretion. Accordingly, the UIAB found that Appellant had been given notice and opportunity to be heard sufficient to satisfy the requirements of due process.

         III. Standard of Review

         When reviewing the decisions 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.[5] Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.[6] The Court's review is limited: "[i]t is not the appellate court's role to weigh 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."[7]

         In reviewing the Board's decision, in this situation, the Court's analysis is twofold.[8] First, it is necessary to determine whether or not the finding that the appeal was untimely is supported by the facts in the record.[9] Second, "the Court must determine whether the Board abused its discretion by not exercising, sua sponte, its power to review the record for an injustice despite the untimely appeal."[10] This Court will not disturb a discretionary ruling of an administrative agency unless it is "based on clearly unreasonable or capricious grounds."[11] Furthermore, "an abuse of discretion occurs where the Board exceeds the bounds of reason in view of the circumstances and has ignored recognized rules of law or practice so as to produce injustice."[12]

         IV. ...


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