STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE
PROVIDENCE, SC DISTRICT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION
: A.A. 03-138
OF LABOR AND TRAINING, BOARD OF
D E C I
S I O N
This matter is before the Court on the complaint of Neighborhood Health
Plan, filed pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws §
42-35-15, seeking judicial review of a final decision rendered by the
respondent, Board of Review, Department of Labor and Training, which reversed
the finding of the Referee that the claimant, Shelley W. Brown was not entitled
to receive employment security benefits.
The travel of the case is as follows.
The claimant was employed for five years as a network development
specialist. Her last day of work
was December 19, 2002.
a Director’s decision dated January 10, 2003 it was determined that the
claimant voluntarily left her job without good cause within the meaning of
Section 28-44-17 of the Rhode Island Employment Security Act.
The claimant filed a late appeal of that decision on June 25, 2003.
A Referee’s decision dated July 30, 2003 denied the claimant’s late
appeal. Following a timely appeal
to the Board of Review of the Referee’s decision, the Board of Review
overruled the decision of the Referee and remanded the case to the Referee for a
decision on the claimant’s appeal on the issue under Section 28-44-17 of the
Rhode Island Employment Security Act based on testimony and evidence presented
at the Referee’s hearing on July 28, 2003.
On October 6, 2003 the Referee issued a decision in which he sustained
the determination of the Director. The
claimant appealed to the Board of Review.
hearing was held before the Chairman of the Board of Review on November 4, 2003.
The claimant appeared with legal counsel at the Board hearing.
The employer, with notice, did not appear at the Board hearing.
The Board determined that the Referee’s decision was not a proper
adjudication of the facts, and reversed the Referee’s decision.
Thereafter, Neighborhood Health Plan filed a complaint for judicial
review; jurisdiction for review of the decisions of the Board is vested in the
District Court by Rhode Island General Laws §
The standard of review is provided by Rhode Island General Laws §
42-35-15(g), a section of the state Administrative Procedures Act, which
provides as follows:
Judicial review of contested cases.
(g) The court shall not substitute
its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on
questions of fact. The court may
affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case for further proceedings, or
it may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant
have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences,
conclusions, or decisions are:
In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;
excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
upon unlawful procedure;
by other error of law;
Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial
evidence on the whole record; or
Arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or
clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.
on questions of fact, the District Court ". . . may not substitute its
judgment for that of the agency and must affirm the decision of the agency
unless its findings are clearly erroneous.”
Guarino v. Department of
Social Welfare, 122 R.I. 583, 584, 410 A.2d 425 (1980) citing Rhode Island
General Laws §
42-35-15(g)(5). The Court will not
substitute its judgment for that of the Board as to the weight of the evidence
on questions of fact. Cahoone
v. Board of Review of the
Department of Employment Security, 104 R.I. 503, 246 A.2d 213 (1968).
Stated differently, the findings of the agency will be upheld even though
a reasonable mind might have reached a contrary result.
Cahoone v. Board of Review of Department of Employment Security,
104 R.I. 503, 246 A.2d 213, 215 (1968). See
also D’Ambra v. Board of Review,
Department of Employment Security,
517 A.2d 1039, 1041 (R.I. 1986).
Court has recognized that a liberal interpretation shall be utilized in
construing and applying the Employment Security Act:
. . eligibility for benefits is to be determined in the light of the expressed
legislative policy that "Chapters 42 to 44, inclusive, of this title shall
be construed liberally in aid of their declared purpose which declared purpose
is to lighten the burden which now falls upon the unemployed worker and his
family.” G.L. 1956, §
28-42-73. The legislature having thus declared a policy of liberal construction,
this court, in construing the act, must seek to give as broad an effect to its
humanitarian purpose as it reasonably may in the circumstances.
Of course, compliance with the legislative policy does not warrant an
extension of eligibility by this court to any person or class of persons not
intended by the legislature to share in the benefits of the act; but neither
does it permit this court to enlarge the exclusionary effect of expressed
restrictions on eligibility under the guise of construing such provisions of the
act. Harraka v. Board of Review
of Department of Employment Security, 98 R.I. 197, 201, 200 A.2d 595, 597
The issue before the Court is whether the Board’s determination that
the Referee’s decision was not a proper adjudication of the facts and that the
claimant did not leave her employment without good cause was supported by
reliable, probative, and substantial evidence in the record and whether or not
it was clearly erroneous.
The Board of Review made the following finding of fact:
upon the evidence presented at the Board of Review hearing, which evidence
apparently was not fully presented to the Referee, I find that the claimant had
been subject to sexual harassment at her place of work.”
The Board of Review made the following conclusions:
issue in this case is whether or not the claimant left work voluntarily with
good cause within the meaning of Section 28-44-17 of the Rhode Island Employment
individual who leaves work voluntarily must establish good cause for taking that
action or else be subject to disqualification under the provisions of Section
upon the finding of fact that the claimant was the victim of sexual harassment,
I conclude that she had good cause to leave her job within the meaning of
An individual who leaves work voluntarily must establish good cause for
taking that action or else be subject to disqualification under the provisions
of Section 28-44-17, which provides:
- Voluntary leaving without good cause. -
An individual who leaves work voluntarily without good cause shall be
ineligible for waiting period credit or benefits until he or she establishes to
the satisfaction of the director that he or she has subsequent to that leaving
had at least eight (8) weeks of work, and in each of those eight (8) weeks has
had earnings of at least twenty (20) times the minimum hourly wage as defined in
chapter 12 of this title for performing services in employment for one or more
employers subject to chapters 42 -- 44, of this title.
For the purposes of this section, voluntary leaving work with good cause
shall include sexual harassment against members of either sex.
For the purposes of this section, voluntarily leaving work without good
cause shall include voluntarily leaving work with an employer to accompany, join
or follow his or her spouse in a new locality in connection with the retirement
of his or her spouse, or failure by a temporary employee to contact the
temporary help agency upon completion of the most recent work assignment to seek
additional work unless good cause
is shown for said failure; provided, however, that the temporary help agency
gave written notice to the individual that the individual is required to contact
the temporary help agency at the completion of the most recent work assignment
to seek additional work.”
The approach to be taken in defining “good cause” was stated in 1964 in Harraka v. Board of Review of Department of Employment Security, 98 R.I. 197, 201, 200 A.2d 595, 597-98 (1964). The court noted that a liberal reading of good cause would be adopted:
view the statutory language as requiring an employee to establish that he
terminated his employment under compulsion is to make any voluntary termination
thereof work a forfeiture of his eligibility under the act.
This, in our opinion, amounts to reading into the statute a provision
that the legislature did not contemplate at the time of its enactment.
excluding from eligibility for benefit payments those who voluntarily terminate
their employment without good cause, the legislature intended in the public
interest to secure the fund from which the payments are made against depletion
by payment of benefits to the shirker, the indolent, or the malingerer.
However, the same public interest demands of this court an interpretation
sufficiently liberal to permit the benefits of the act to be made available to
employees who in good faith voluntarily leave their employment because the
conditions thereof are such that continued exposure thereto would cause or
aggravate nervous reactions or otherwise produce psychological trauma.
court, as stated above, rejected the notion that the termination must be
“under compulsion” or that the reason therefor must be of a “compelling
A notice of a conference was mailed to each of the parties.
The conference was scheduled for January 20, 2004 at 8:30 a.m. Appellant did not appear.
A review of the entire record demonstrates that there is substantial,
probative and reliable evidence to support the findings of fact, conclusions and
decision of the Board of Review.
On findings of fact, as to the weight of the evidence, this Court shall
not substitute its judgment for that of the administrative agency.
scope of judicial review by the Court is limited by Section 28-44-54 which in
its pertinent part provides:
Scope of judicial review -
Additional evidence - Precedence of proceedings. -
The jurisdiction of the reviewing court shall be confined to questions of law,
and, in the absence of fraud, the findings of fact by the board of review, if
supported by substantial evidence regardless of statutory or common law rules,
shall be conclusive.
Upon careful review of the evidence, this Court finds that the decision
of the Board was not “clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative and
substantial evidence on the whole record,” and that said decision was not
“arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly
unwarranted exercise of discretion.” Rhode
Island General Laws §
Accordingly, the decision of the Board is hereby affirmed.
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