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Reid v. Metrohealth Systems, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 30, 2017


         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-15-843359


          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Orlando E. Smith

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES For MetroHealth Sytems, Inc. Marlene L. Franklin Emily C. Fiftal

          For Director, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Mike DeWine By: Patrick MacQueeney

          BEFORE: Keough, A.J., McCormack, J., and Laster Mays, J.



         {¶1} Appellant, Robert Reid ("Reid"), appeals from the judgment of the common pleas court affirming the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (the "Commission") that he was terminated from his employment at MetroHealth System ("MetroHealth") for just cause and therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits. We affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} Reid filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (the "ODJFS"). The ODJFS allowed the claim without a hearing. MetroHealth appealed the determination and on redetermination, ODJFS affirmed its decision, again without a hearing. MetroHealth appealed the redetermination, and ODJFS transferred jurisdiction of the appeal to the Commission for an evidentiary hearing pursuant to R.C. 4141.281. The hearing took place on September 15, 2014, and October 28, 2014.

         {¶3} Prior to the September hearing, Reid requested that the hearing officer issue subpoenas to MetroHealth requesting documentary evidence and the appearance at the hearing of various MetroHealth employees. Reid's request totaled seven single-spaced pages. The hearing officer did not issue all of Reid's requested subpoenas, but on September 10, 2014, he issued a broad subpoena ordering MetroHealth to produce "all documents that relate or pertain to claimant and/or that contain information about claimant including job performance, corrective action and/or discipline and claimant's record of employment with MetroHealth." In response, on October 21, 2014, MetroHealth produced 170 pages of documents to Reid and the Commission. The documents included Reid's personnel file, a corrective action report issued to Reid, notes of weekly meetings Reid had with his supervisor after he received a written warning, and the final disciplinary report discharging Reid.

         {¶4} Reid testified at the hearing, as did his supervisor, Simpson Huggins ("Huggins"), and Alexander Tedosio, MetroHealth's Labor Relations Director.

         {¶5} Tedosio testified that Reid was employed by MetroHealth as a senior internal auditor from November 11, 2013, until he was discharged on June 16, 2014, for inadequate job performance and conduct issues that violated MetroHealth's disciplinary policy contained in the employee handbook. Tedosio said that Reid was made aware of the policy at his orientation and again when he was given a written warning on April 8, 2014, and put on a performance improvement plan.

         {¶6} Tedosio testified that Reid received a 45-day evaluation of his performance in December 2013, and the review indicated that he was performing satisfactorily. Reid also received a 90-day evaluation in February 2014. This evaluation indicated that Reid was performing satisfactorily but needed to improve his efficiency in completing assigned audits.

         {¶7} Tedosio said that Huggins met with him before April 8, 2014, and reviewed numerous complaints he had received about Reid from various MetroHealth employees. Huggins then asked what the appropriate action would be regarding someone in Reid's position. Tedosio recommended a written corrective action report; in short, a written warning.

         {¶8} On April 8, 2014, Huggins met with Reid and gave him the written corrective action report. The report stated that Reid had engaged in disorderly conduct, such as verbal altercations with other employees, and willful conduct that interfered with the effective operations of MetroHealth; that he had failed to meet the standards of the job; and that he had failed to follow his supervisor's instructions and complete his job assignments, all in violation of specific sections of the employee handbook. Huggins summarized Reid's policy violations as follows:

On numerous accounts during the past four months, I have commented verbally to Robert on how he should communicate with MHS personnel regarding audit matters. These communications were based on auditees commenting directly to me about his demeanor, approach, and lack of respect. As a result, attached is a summary of occurrences that outline the policy violations noted above.

         {¶9} The four-page summary identified various incidents where MetroHealth employees had complained to Huggins about Reid's statements to them or treatment of them while he was conducting audits in their departments. The summary also found that Reid had submitted audit reports that were not of the quality and standards expected of a senior internal auditor. The summary noted further that when he was hired, Reid told Huggins that he had IT auditing skills, but when he was assigned to develop an IT audit program, he submitted a program based upon a previous employer's program rather than a program tailored to MetroHealth.

         {¶10} The corrective action report instructed Reid to immediately improve his behavior by showing respect to other MetroHealth employees, and improve his performance and time management skills by timely completing his audit assignments. The report stated that Reid had six weeks in which to improve his verbal and written communication skills, interpersonal skills, focus, and critical thinking. The report indicated that during those six weeks, Reid would have weekly one-on-one meetings with Huggins to discuss his performance and the progress of his assigned projects.

         {¶11} On April 8, 2014, Reid provided a written response to the warning to MetroHealth's Human Resources Department. In his response, Reid addressed each incident identified in Huggins's summary. He specifically stated "I accept responsibility" with regard to each incident and identified the future corrective actions he would take, including not interrupting inventory processes, seeking an effective communications course, not becoming argumentative with other employees, not expanding an audit scope without conferring with his supervisor, and writing in a clear and concise manner.

         {¶12} Huggins testified that prior to April 8, 2014, he had met with Reid each time there was a complaint or a question about his auditing skills. He testified that he rated Reid "satisfactory" at his 45-day review because his audit work was just beginning, and although he still rated him "satisfactory" ...

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