On Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services
Before Ferren and Schwelb, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb
SCHWELB, Associate Judge: Petitioner Jaime Cruz, Jr., asks us to review a decision by the Department of Employment Services (DOES) denying him unemployment benefits upon the ground that he voluntarily left his job without good cause connected with the work. Mr. Cruz contends that his resignation was with good cause and, implicitly, that the hearing examiner failed to make sufficient findings. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Mr. Cruz worked as a Spanish Coordinator for the United Planning Organization (UPO) in Washington, D.C. from May, 1990 to August, 1991. He resigned on August 9, 1991 to accept the position of Community Outreach Coordinator with the Latino Federation of Tenants Associations (LFTA). He was to start in his new position on August 19, ten days after his resignation. Unfortunately, in the interim, the LFTA's financial condition declined, and the LFTA was compelled to withdraw its offer to Mr. Cruz.
Mr. Cruz immediately applied for unemployment benefits. On his claim form, he marked "5. Reason for Separation: Left Voluntarily," without providing any further explanation. *fn1 Based on the application, the DOES claims examiner found Mr. Cruz ineligible for benefits because he had left his most recent work for "personal" reasons. Mr. Cruz filed a timely administrative appeal. On December 11, 1991, a DOES appeals hearing examiner held a telephone hearing.
At the hearing, which was quite abbreviated, Mr. Cruz explained his reasons for resigning from UPO as follows: "I left the job because I saw no future number one. Number two, I had a job offer." He testified that UPO had been experiencing severe financial difficulties, that employees had been furloughed, and that he believed, in light of what he characterized as the employer's "economic crises," that his own continued employment was in jeopardy. Mr. Cruz further explained that he had encountered "a lot of resistance to me carrying out my job" from the Executive Director's support staff, and that this "also made it very uncomfortable for my staying at UPO." The employer did not contest any of these allegations, nor did the UPO representative make any closing argument.
The hearing examiner found that Mr. Cruz "left his most recent work of his own volition" for a "personal" reason which was not "objectively job-related or directly connected with the work." The basis for her decision was that "claimant quit his job to accept another position which did not materialize." Acknowledging that "claimant's reason for quitting seemed sufficient to him, and his opinion is entitled to respect," the examiner found that Mr. Cruz had not made a sufficient showing that his voluntary departure was for "good cause connected with the work." She therefore ruled that Mr. Cruz was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. The agency upheld the determination of the hearing examiner. Mr. Cruz has asked this court to review the agency's denial of benefits.
As Justice Musmanno explained for the court in Pittsburgh Pipe & Coupling Co. v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 401 Pa. 501, 165 A.2d 374, 377-78 (Pa. 1960),
the Unemployment Compensation Law is remedial humanitarian legislation of vast import. Its benefits sections must be liberally and broadly construed. It is primarily intended for the benefit of unemployed workers.
The Act has wiped out the acute and almost unbearable hardships which heretofore accompanied unanticipated loss of employment. The employee does not need to fear now that suddenly, because he has been "laid off", the bread will be taken off his table and his wife and children will be bereft of adequate heat, light, raiment and perhaps even a roof over their heads.
Of course, the Act is not intended to require payment to the shirker, the slothful or the indolent, but if the claimant is obviously in good faith in his expressed desire to work, but no matter how earnestly he reaches, his arms are not long enough to take and hold on ...