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Wheeler v. NN Metal Stampings, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Williams

June 15, 2018

James F. Wheeler Appellant
v.
NN Metal Stampings, Inc., et al. Appellees

          Trial Court No. 17 CI 026

          Brian J. Smith, for appellant.

          Cheryl L. Jennings, for appellee NN Metal Stampings, Inc.

          Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General, and Eric A. Baum, Managing Attorney, for appellee Director, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          JENSEN, J.

         I. Introduction

         {¶ 1} Appellant, James Wheeler, appeals the judgment of the Williams County Court of Common Pleas, affirming the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission's denial of his application for unemployment benefits.

          A. Facts and Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} Appellant initiated this proceeding by filing an application for unemployment benefits with appellee, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services ("ODJFS"), following his resignation from employment with appellee, NN Metal Stampings, Inc. ("employer").

         {¶ 3} For a period of 14 years, appellant worked as a maintenance worker with employer. In that capacity, appellant was expected to perform as an electrician from time to time. Appellant was provided certain safety equipment to protect him while he worked on the employer's electrical systems, some of which operated at 480 volts. According to appellant, the safety gloves that employer provided him were out of date and unfit for their intended purpose. Further, appellant claimed that his coworker, who was hired in June 2016, was not provided personal protective equipment. Moreover, appellant stated that unqualified individuals were working on equipment without following lockout/tagout procedures. Appellant alleged that he informed his supervisor of these concerns on June 14, 2016.

         {¶ 4} On September 1, 2016, appellant approached his supervisor to inform him of the need for new safety gloves. Employer claimed that this was the first time it had been made aware of the need for new safety equipment. Appellant's supervisor allegedly directed appellant and his coworker to "do the best they could with what they had." Later that day, appellant brought his safety concerns to an OSHA investigator that was onsite conducting an unrelated investigation.

         {¶ 5} According to the record produced below, the OSHA investigator discussed appellant's safety issues with employer, and the requested safety equipment was ordered that day. The equipment was delivered on September 9, 2016. Appellant tendered his resignation two days prior to the arrival of the equipment.

         {¶ 6} On September 11, 2016, appellant filed an application for unemployment benefits with ODJFS. ODJFS reviewed appellant's application and issued its "determination" on October 4, 2016. In its determination, ODJFS found that "facts establish that [appellant] did not inform the employer of his/her concerns, or allow the employer reasonable time to correct the situation. * * * Therefore, no benefits will be paid until the claimant obtains employment subject to an unemployment compensation law * * *."

         {¶ 7} Appellant appealed ODJFS's determination to the ODJFS redetermination unit. On November 10, 2016, ODJFS issued a "redetermination" in which it affirmed its determination for the same reasons that were set forth in the determination. Appellant then appealed the redetermination ...


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