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Kidd International Home Care, Inc. v. Prince

February 22, 2007

KIDD INTERNATIONAL HOME CARE, INC., PETITIONER,
v.
VONDA K. PRINCE, RESPONDENT.



On Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Senior Judge

Argued May 22, 2006*fn1

Before REID andFISHER, Associate Judges, and SCHWELB, Senior Judge.*fn2

Kidd International Home Care, Inc. (Kidd or the employer) has asked this court to review a Final Order of the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), in which the OAH ruled that Kidd was liable for unemployment compensation to its former employee, Vonda K. Prince, whom Kidd had discharged for gross misconduct. In so holding, the OAH reversed a determination favorable to the employer by a Claims Examiner of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DC DOES). The basis for the OAH's ruling was that no representative of Kidd appeared at the hearing which had previously been scheduled by the OAH to consider the merits of Ms. Prince's appeal from the Claims Examiner's decision.

In effect, the OAH entered a default award in Ms. Prince's favor. Before this court, Kidd asserts that it received no notice either of Ms. Prince's appeal from the Claims Examiner's determination or of the scheduling of a hearing by the OAH. Ms. Prince, the respondent, has not filed a brief in this court or participated in any way in the proceedings before us. We reverse the decision of the OAH and remand the case to that Office for a hearing on the merits.

I.

On November 9, 2004, Kidd discharged Ms. Prince for the alleged sexual solicitation of a female customer. On November 14, 2004, Ms. Prince applied for unemployment compensation benefits. On November 23, 2004, the employer filed a detailed response to Ms. Prince's application, providing chapter and verse of Ms. Prince's alleged misconduct. On December 7, 2004, a Claims Examiner of DC DOES' Office of Unemployment Compensation ruled that Ms. Prince was disqualified from receiving compensation on account of her gross misconduct. Although the Certificate of Service accompanying the Claims Examiner's ruling was confusing and, in our view, inadequate,*fn3 his or her determination, which was accompanied by a "Notice of Appeal Rights," was evidently received both by Ms. Prince and by the employer, and it is a part of the record before this court.

On December 16, 2004, Ms. Prince appealed to the OAH from the decision of the Claims Examiner denying her benefits. The record indicates, however, that Ms. Prince did not serve a notice of her request for a hearing on the employer. Indeed, Ms. Prince's submission consisted of a single handwritten page on which she wrote:

This is a request for a hearing.

Thank you Mrs. Prince.

The record contains an envelope addressed to the OAH by Ms. Prince, but no indication that the employer was notified of Ms. Prince's request.

On December 28, 2004, the OAH issued a Scheduling Order directing the parties to appear before the OAH on January 13, 2005 at 10:30 A.M. The Order stated, inter alia: "Failure of a party to appear at the hearing may result in a default, dismissal, or other unfavorable outcome." The Scheduling Order was accompanied by a Certificate of Service which reflected that the Order was mailed to Ms. Prince and to

Kidd International Home Care Service 6856 Eastern Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20012 No suite number was designated. The street address on the Scheduling Order corresponds to that reflected in Kidd's correspondence, except that Kidd's stationery shows that Kidd occupies Suite 286.

On January 14, 2005, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the OAH issued a Final Order in which she reversed the determination of the Claims Examiner and held that Ms. Prince was entitled to ...


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