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Parrett v. Administrator

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Pickaway

May 8, 2017

BRADLEY E. PARRETT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ADMINISTRATOR, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION REVIEW COMM'N, Defendant-Appellant.

          Michael DeWine, Ohio Attorney General, and David E. Lefton, Principal Assistant Ohio Attorney General, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant, Director, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

          Mark Landes, Isaac, Wiles, Burkholder & Teetor, LLC, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant Pickaway County Educational Service Center. [1]

          Bradley E. Parrett, Circleville, Ohio, Pro Se Appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Matthew W. McFarland, Judge.

         {¶1} Appellant, Director, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, appeals the Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas' decision reversing the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission's decision disallowing unemployment compensation benefits to Appellee, Bradley E. Parrett, based upon its determination that Appellee was discharged for just cause by Appellant, Pickaway County Educational Service Center. On appeal, Appellant contends that the trial court erred in reversing the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission, as its decision that Appellee was separated from his employment under disqualifying conditions was not unlawful, unreasonable, or against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶2} Because the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission was not unlawful, unreasonable or against the manifest weight of the evidence, the trial court erred in reversing the decision. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court is reversed.

         FACTS

         {¶3} Appellee, Bradley E. Parrett, began working as a resource officer for the Pickaway County Educational Service Center in August of 2011. His contract for employment for that position provided, among other things, that he "maintain a cooperative working relationship with the Ross County Sheriff Department[]" and that he "[b]e a commissioned law enforcement officer by the state of Ohio." (Emphasis added). At the time Appellee became employed with the Pickaway County Educational Service Center, he was a commissioned deputy sheriff by the Ross County Sheriffs Office. However, after a complaint was made to the Sheriffs Office by a private citizen regarding Appellee in his capacity as a deputy, the Ross County Sheriff made the decision to revoke Appellee's commission in November of 2014. When the school was made aware that Appellee had lost his commissioned status, the school superintendent informed Appellee he must either resign his position or he would be discharged. Appellee submitted a resignation letter on December 12, 2014, stating that his resignation was "due to the fact that I am no longer affiliated with the Ross County Sheriffs Office."

         {¶4} Appellee made application for unemployment compensation benefits on December 12, 2014. The record reflects that Appellee's employer did not challenge the payment of unemployment benefits to Appellee. The Director's file contains a Determination of Unemployment Compensation Benefits dated January 14, 2015, which disallowed benefits due to "a disqualifying separation from employment[, ]" and because Appellee was "discharged with just cause." The determination stated "[t]he employer discharged the claimant for not providing and maintaining the license, permit or insurability required to perform the work[, ]" and that "[f]acts establish that the claimant was made aware at the time of hire that he/she was responsible for maintaining the license, permit, or insurability."

         {¶5} Appellant appealed the determination and filed a letter explaining that:

"As of November 2014 there was a complaint filed against me at the sheriffs office, The sheriff decided to pull my commission before all the facts were presented. With him pulling my commission I no longer had any deputy authority this means I could not arrest, pat down, detain or act in any way as an officer. With my employment working as a resource officer at the school it is in my contract the I must be a commissioned officer. At no time did I surrender/forfeit/resign or quit, giving up my commission at the sheriffs office. The sheriff pulled my commission and in return I did not meet the requirements of the contract at the school. The school in return laid me off giving me the opportunity to draw unemployment till all the facets could be worked out and my commission reinstated which would in return reinstate job with the school."

         On February 11, 2015, a Notice of Redetermination of an Initial Application of Unemployment Benefits was filed, again disallowing Appellee's application for unemployment benefits due to "a disqualifying separation from employment[, ]" but stating "the claimant quit without just cause."

         {¶6} Appellee again appealed, making the same argument contained in his first appeal. On February 18, 2015, the matter was transferred to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission. Thereafter, a telephone hearing was held on March 5, 2015. The Pickaway County Educational Service Center filed a notice prior to the hearing stating that it would not be participating in the hearing and that it was not contesting Appellee's application for benefits. Appellee participated in the hearing and was permitted to testify. At this stage, however, Appellee testified that he was not aware he was required to be affiliated with the Ross County Sheriffs Office, but rather he understood he only had to be a "certified police officer." When asked whether his position as resource officer required him to be a "commissioned officer, " Appellee testified that his contract only required that he be a "certified police officer, " not that he had to be a "commissioned officer." He testified that he was still currently a "certified police officer." He claimed that any requirement that he be commissioned was a change in the job requirements.

         {¶7} The decision of the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission was filed on March 5, 2015. The Review Commission findings of fact included findings that 1) Appellee's position required that he be commissioned by the Ross County Sheriffs Office; 2) his commission was revoked on November 25, 2014; 3) the commission was revoked due to a complaint received by the Sheriffs Office; 4) once his commission was revoked he could no longer perform essential contract obligations of the position; 5) he was given the option of being discharged or resigning on December 12, 2014; 6) Appellee offered a letter of resignation in lieu of discharge; and 7) the employer was the moving party in the separation. The Review Commission's stated reasoning was that the employer acted reasonably in discharging Appellee because he was unable to meet a condition of continued employment, as his commission had been revoked by the Ross County Sheriffs Office. The Review Commission further reasoned that "[w]ithout the commission he was not able to perform the essential functions of the position as he could no longer arrest, perform searches, and complete other essential resource functions." As such, the Review Commission reasoned that Appellee was discharged with just cause. The decision of the Review Commission ultimately affirmed the redetermination findings that disallowed Appellee's claim because he was separated from employment under disqualifying conditions, however, it modified the redetermination finding that Appellee "quit" his employment. The Review Commission modified that decision to instead find that Appellee was discharged with just cause.

         {¶8} By letter dated March 23, 2015, Appellee requested the March 5, 2015 decision be reviewed, arguing that a requirement that he be commissioned by Ross County was a change in his contract and that he was unaware, when he was hired, that he had to be commissioned by Ross County Sheriffs Office. In support of his request for review, Appellee attached documents purporting to be copies of the contract presented to him upon hire, as well as a new, revised contract that was created after he was discharged, that would govern the terms of employment for the resource officer position going forward. Appellant argued that because the new contract contained different requirements from his original contract, the terms of employment had changed. There is no indication from the record, however, that the contract language changed before Appellee was discharged from his position. Thereafter, an Unemployment Compensation Review Commission Decision Disallowing Request for Review was filed on April 15, 2015, disallowing Appellee's claim once again, based upon a review of the entire record, and informing Appellee of his right to appeal the matter to the court of common pleas.

         {¶9} Appellee subsequently filed a pro se appeal in the Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas. At this stage, both the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Pickaway Educational Service Center filed motions to dismiss the appeal. Appellee filed a brief in support of his appeal that contained little argument, but instead appeared to be a compilation of documents contained in the Director's file, as well as several letters addressed "to whom it may concern, " that are not part of the official record below. Appellants' position during that appeal was that Appellee's employment was expressly conditioned upon him maintaining a license or certification (in this case a commission), and that his failure to comply with the ...


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