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Komarec v. Ill. Department of Labor

OPINION FILED JUNE 26, 1986.

THEO KOMAREC, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. Alford R. Penniman, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LINDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendants, Board of Review (Board) and Illinois Department of Labor (Department), appeal from an order of the circuit court of Winnebago County, entered in an administrative review proceeding, which reversed the Board's determination that plaintiff, Theo Komarec, was not qualified for unemployment-insurance benefits under the provisions of section 601(A) of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 431(A)). Defendants argue that the trial court's order must be reversed because the Board's prior determination that plaintiff left work without good cause attributable to his employer is supported by substantial evidence in the record. We affirm.

Plaintiff had been employed as a $12-per-hour machinist with the Kotter Transmission Company before he was laid off. He filed a claim for unemployment-insurance benefits with the Division of Unemployment Insurance.

In April 1983, while collecting benefits, Komarec registered with the Norrell Service Company (Norrell), a temporary placement service, in order to supplement his employment benefits. For the first two months plaintiff received two temporary assignments, totaling 13 hours of work. On June 10, 1983, Norrell assigned plaintiff to Camcar Industries (Camcar), in the position of laborer, to substitute for a vacationing employee. Plaintiff's employment at Camcar continued for approximately four weeks at a wage of $3.35 per hour. While assigned to Camcar plaintiff was considered an employee of Norrell and received his checks from Norrell. At the end of this period Camcar offered plaintiff an additional week of employment. He refused, however, stating that he would be gone for seven to ten days on his annual fishing trip. He told Camcar, as well as Norrell, that he would be available for work on his return. When plaintiff returned from his trip he continued to receive calls from Norrell regarding possible employment.

Plaintiff did not apply for unemployment benefits for the week he was gone. He subsequently applied for and received weekly benefits from July 17 through August 13, 1983. Norrell filed an Employer Notice of Possible Ineligibility with the Department of Labor, Division of Unemployment Insurance, stating on the form that plaintiff "[q]uit voluntarily for personal reasons." The claims adjudicator determined that on July 8, 1983, plaintiff left work at Norrell "voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employer" and found plaintiff ineligible for benefits during the period July 17 through August 13, 1983.

Thereafter plaintiff filed a notice of reconsideration and appeal from the claims adjudicator's decision to the referee. During a hearing on plaintiff's appeal, plaintiff testified that his work at Camcar was "very boring and tedious," the wages he received from Norrell began at $4.75 but were later reduced to $3.35, and that the benefits at Norrell were "nil." He further testified that he did not "quit" Camcar; he merely advised them he would be gone several days and stated, "I will be back. I will be available for work * * *." After the hearing the referee affirmed the claims adjudicator's decision that plaintiff's reason for leaving work was a personal reason not in any respect attributable to the employer and, thus, plaintiff left work voluntarily without good cause.

Thereafter plaintiff filed a notice of appeal to the Board of Review. The Board found that the referee's findings of fact and decision were supported by the record and law and affirmed the referee's decision.

On administrative review the circuit court of Winnebago County reversed and found that the work offered plaintiff was unsuitable within the meaning of section 603 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 433) and Crocker v. Department of Labor (1984), 121 Ill. App.3d 185. The court also found the decision of the Department to be against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The issue in this appeal is the validity of the Board's initial determination that Komarec was ineligible for unemployment-insurance benefits because he voluntarily left work without cause. Section 601(A) of the Unemployment Insurance Act provides in relevant part:

"An individual shall be ineligible for benefits for the week in which he has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employing unit and, thereafter, until he has become reemployed * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 431(A).

• 1-3 Our function on review of the Board's determination is limited to ascertaining whether its finding of facts are sustained by the evidence (Yadro v. Bowling (1980), 91 Ill. App.3d 889.) It is axiomatic that an agency's findings concerning factual questions are prima facie true and correct and the agency's decision should not be disturbed on review unless it is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 3-110). (Gregory v. Bernardi (1984), 125 Ill. App.3d 376, 381; Crocker v. Department of Labor (1984), 121 Ill. App.3d 185, 189; Thompson v. Board of Review (1983), 120 Ill. App.3d 1, 4.) If the issue merely involves conflicting testimony and the credibility of the witness, the agency's determination should be upheld. (Gregory v. Bernardi (1984), 125 Ill. App.3d 376, 383.) Also, given its limited function in an unemployment-compensation case, the judiciary will not reweigh the evidence adduced at its administrative hearing (Sheff v. Board of Review (1984), 128 Ill. App.3d 347, 350; Thompson v. Board of Review (1983), 120 Ill. App.3d 1, 4) or substitute its judgment for that of the agency unless the administrative findings are without substantial support in the record (Gregory v. Bernardi (1984), 125 Ill. App.3d 376, 381; see James v. Department of Labor (1983), 119 Ill. App.3d 524, 527). (See Clark v. Board of Review (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 559, 562.) A finding is against the manifest weight of the evidence if an opposite conclusion is clearly evident. (Doran v. Department of Labor (1983), 116 Ill. App.3d 471, 474; Meyers v. Illinois Department of Public Aid (1983), 114 Ill. App.3d 288, 291; see Thompson v. Board of Review (1983), 120 Ill. App.3d 1, 5; Clark Oil & Refining Corp. v. Golden (1983), 114 Ill. App.3d 300, 308.) However, if, after reviewing all the evidence, the appellate court determines that the administrative decision was erroneous, it has a duty to reverse the agency's determination. Sheff v. Board of Review (1984), 128 Ill. App.3d 347, 350.

• 4, 5 The cardinal purpose of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 300 et seq.) is to provide compensation benefits to unemployed individuals in order to alleviate their economic distress that was occasioned by involuntary unemployment. (Wadlington v. Mindes (1970), 45 Ill.2d 447, 452, appeal dismissed (1970), 400 U.S. 935, 27 L.Ed.2d 242, 91 S.Ct. 252; Clark v. Board of Review (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 559, 561; Lipman v. Board of Review (1984), 123 Ill. App.3d 176, 179.) The receipt of unemployment-insurance benefits in this State is a conditional right, and a claimant bears the burden of establishing eligibility before the agency. (Clark v. Board of Review (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 559, 561; Lipman v. Board of Review (1984), 123 Ill. App.3d 176, 181; Crocker v. Department of Labor (1984), 121 Ill. App.3d 185, 188; Thompson v. Board of Review (1983), 120 Ill. App.3d 1, 7; James v. Department of Labor (1983), 119 Ill. App.3d 524, 527.) In order to be eligible for benefits, however, claimant must satisfy the terms and conditions the Unemployment Insurance Act prescribes. (Clark v. Board of Review (1984), 126 Ill. App.3d 559. 561.) In the present case, the Board merely adopted the referee's findings of fact that plaintiff left work to take a fishing trip and, thus, was ineligible for benefits. The referee's decision made no reference to the nature of the work offered by Camcar.

On appeal defendants contend that plaintiff left work solely because the job Camcar offered him interfered with his annual fishing trip. It is apparent that the defendants focused only on one of plaintiff's reasons for leaving the job when analyzing whether plaintiff was eligible for unemployment benefits. A further issue also warranted consideration, however, namely whether designation of the job as unsuitable would have allowed payment of benefits to plaintiff even if unsuitability were not the only reason he left the position. We have considered the issue and conclude that the referee applied an incorrect interpretation of section 601(B)(5). We believe that the plain meaning of the statute militates against the agency's conclusion.

An examination of the other provisions of section 601(B) indicates by their wording that all of the factual situations set forth, with the exception of section 601(B)(5), must constitute the actual and immediate reason for leaving the job. In contrast, ...


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