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Imperial Valet Services, Inc. v. Alvarado

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

July 25, 2013

Imperial Valet Services, Inc., Petitioner,
v.
Maria L. Alvarado, Respondent.

Submitted June 20, 2013

On Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (DOES-3130-10)

Thomas Heslep filed a brief for petitioner.

No brief was filed for respondent.

Before Oberly and Beckwith, Associate Judges, and Ruiz, Senior Judge.

Oberly, Associate Judge:

Petitioner Imperial Valet Services seeks review of a decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) finding Maria L. Alvarado eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Upon review, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In February 2004, the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services found Maria L. Alvarado, respondent in the instant action, eligible for unemployment benefits. Her employer, Imperial Valet Services, owned and represented by George Thanos, appealed the decision to the OAH, which subsequently reversed, finding that Alvarado voluntarily left her employment without good cause. Alvarado v. Imperial Valet Servs., Inc., No. 09-AA-1110, Mem. Op. & J. at 2 (D.C. Nov. 24, 2010). Alvarado appealed to this court and we vacated and remanded to allow Alvarado "to fully develop her testimony about being humiliated at her workplace." Id. at 5.

On remand, Administrative Law Judge James C. Harmon heard the testimony of Alvarado, her daughter Leyli Flores, and Thanos. Alvarado testified that Thanos had a habit of calling her "stupid" and "a piece of crap" while she was working, in addition to screaming at her, and that as a result she felt "humiliated" and cried during and after work. Flores, who sometimes helped her mother at work, testified that she had overheard Thanos swear and yell at her mother. For his part, Thanos testified that he hardly spoke to Alvarado, or any other Spanish- speaking employee for that matter, as he delegated that responsibility to another employee.

In his final order, the ALJ credited Alvarado's "direct, candid, specific, and plausible" testimony and found that it was corroborated by the testimony of her daughter. He did not credit Thanos's testimony denying ever yelling at Alvarado. The ALJ found that Alvarado had voluntarily quit her position with good cause connected with the work and was therefore qualified to receive unemployment benefits. Petitioner timely appealed.

II. ANALYSIS

"This court must affirm an OAH decision when (1) OAH made findings of fact on each materially contested issue of fact, (2) substantial evidence supports each finding, and (3) OAH's conclusions flow rationally from its findings of fact." Rodriguez v. Filene's Basement Inc., 905 A.2d 177, 180 (D.C. 2006). We also construe the provisions of our unemployment compensation act "liberally and broadly, " in order to foster "its purpose of protecting employees against economic dependency caused by temporary unemployment and to reduce the need for other welfare programs." Bowman-Cook v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 16 A.3d 130, 134 (D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).

An employee who quits her job voluntarily is entitled to unemployment benefits if she meets her burden of showing that she quit her job with "good cause connected to the work." D.C. Code § 51-110(a) (2001); see also 7 DCMR § 311.7 (listing examples of good cause). Whether good cause exists is "factual in nature and should be judged by the standard of a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances." Kramer v. District ...


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