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Company v. Review Board of Indiana Department of Workforce Development

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 1, 2018

Company, Appellant,
Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and S.W., Appellees

          Appeal from the Review Board of the Department of Workforce Development Case No. 18-R-226

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT George C. Patrick Crown Point, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] S.W. was employed full-time by his employer (Company). When he voluntarily terminated his position, he sought unemployment benefits under Indiana's Unemployment Compensation Act (the Act).[1] The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) awarded him benefits. Company now appeals, arguing that the Review Board erred by determining that S.W. was eligible for unemployment benefits. Finding no error, we affirm.


         [¶2] On May 26, 2015, S.W. began working full-time for Company. Around the time of his separation, he was performing his assigned job duties as a department head. But on October 30, 2017, S.W. was placed on a thirty-day performance improvement plan, which included a list of expectations for S.W. to meet and which informed S.W. that unless he demonstrated significant improvement, he would be subject to discipline. Company claims it placed S.W. on the improvement plan because of concerns that S.W. was not sufficiently performing his job duties. While S.W. was on the improvement plan, he was not informed that his job performance did not meet the level of improvement that Company wanted.

         [¶3] On November 30, 2017, at the end of the duration of the improvement plan, Company met with S.W., informing him that he had a choice: he could be demoted to a lower position with lower pay or he could resign. S.W. was not eligible for discharge at that time. He chose to resign.

         [¶4] At some point, S.W. sought unemployment benefits. On January 4, 2018, a DWD claims deputy determined that S.W. had not been discharged for just cause and awarded S.W. unemployment benefits. On January 12, 2018, Company appealed the grant of benefits to the DWD's appeals division.

         [¶5] On February 7, 2018, an administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing by telephone. During the hearing, one of Company's witnesses, who was S.W.'s supervisor and the assistant director, testified that Company placed S.W. on the performance improvement plan because 1) he was not communicating daily with his supervisors or training his staff as directed; 2) he was absent from his work area several times a week; 3) he did not provide documentation of conversations he had with supervisors or staff, including documentation about a shift change for one employee; and 4) he changed his shift without notifying his supervisors. The supervisor also testified that Company was not aware that S.W. had not created training materials or conducted any trainings until he was already on the improvement plan. The supervisor then testified that S.W. did not successfully complete the plan because 1) he did not meet deadlines and 2) he was not a cooperative or communicative employee. The supervisor was unable to identify a specific deadline that S.W. had missed and was inconsistent in describing when he had asked S.W. to submit certain materials.

         [¶6] S.W. testified that his job required him to be in different departments; that his supervisor bore him ill will and was creating a hostile work environment, leading S.W. to file a complaint with the human resources office; that he was directed to perform staff trainings but not to create training materials; that when he was asked for a training checklist, he could not find it at that time but delivered it to the director later that day; that he talked with his supervisor every day; and that he was never told that his position was in jeopardy.

         [¶7] The next day, the ALJ issued a decision, concluding that S.W. voluntarily left his employment with good cause in connection with the work and determined that S.W. was eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

         [¶8] On February 21, 2018, Company appealed the ALJ's decision to the DWD's Review Board. The Review Board did not conduct a hearing and did not consider any evidence not admitted by the ALJ. On March 12, 2018, the Review Board affirmed the ALJ's decision, adopting and ...

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