Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2017
N. Childs and Bryan E. Meek, Brennan, Manna & Diamond,
LLC, 75 East Market Street, Akron, OH 44308 (For Appellee).
Michelle Wrona Fox, Community Legal Aid Services, 11 Central
Square, 7th Floor, Youngstown, OH 44503 (For Appellant).
CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.
Appellant, William B. Hannam, appeals the November 30, 2018
judgment of the Portage County Court of Common Pleas
reversing the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review
Commission's decision to award appellant unemployment
benefits for a certain period in August 2017. For the reasons
discussed herein, the decision of the Portage County Court of
Common Pleas is affirmed.
The facts are undisputed. Mr. Hannam was employed by the Kent
State University as a part-time adjunct professor in the
Music Department for the Spring 2017 semester, which ended on
May 15, 2017. On June 13, 2017, Mr. Hannam received a letter
from the University offering "reasonable
assurance," pursuant to the University's employment
practices, that Mr. Hannam would be needed for the following
"fall and/or spring semester(s)" (the
"Reasonable Assurance Letter or the "Letter").
The Letter did not specify which classes Mr. Hannam would
teach but Mr. Hannam testified that he knew in the spring of
2017 that he was listed as a professor on the fall class
schedule. The Letter stated that his continued employment was
subject to the University's "employment
practices." Both the University and Mr. Hannam
understood this to mean that Mr. Hannam's employment was
contingent on sufficient student enrollment, with priority to
full-time faculty pursuant to the faculty Collective
Bargaining Agreement, and budget approval. Ultimately, the
University confirmed Mr. Hannam's classes had sufficient
enrollment for the fall semester on August 11, 2017, and on
August 28, 2017, Mr. Hannam began teaching.
Shortly after receiving the Reasonable Assurance Letter, Mr.
Hannam applied to the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services (ODJFS) for unemployment benefits. On July 7, 2017,
ODJFS determined that Mr. Hannam was totally unemployed due
to lack of work and allowed his application for benefits. The
University timely appealed and, upon reconsideration, ODJFS
modified the decision to allow benefits from May 15, 2017
through June 17, 2017, but determined that starting the week
of June 18, 2017, Mr. Hannam had reasonable assurance of
employment for the next academic year and therefore was not
eligible for benefits from June 18, 2017 through August 26,
2017. That decision also ordered Mr. Hannam to repay $690.00
that ODJFS determined to be overpaid benefits. Mr. Hannam
timely appealed and ODJFS transferred jurisdiction to the
Review Commission pursuant to R.C. 4141.281(B).
In August 2017, a Review Commission Hearing Officer conducted
an evidentiary hearing, and, in the September 8, 2017
decision, the Hearing Officer determined Mr. Hannam did not
have reasonable assurances until the week ending August 19,
2017, i.e., the week the University confirmed adequate
enrollment in Mr. Hannam's classes, and that Mr. Hannam,
accordingly, was entitled to benefits from June 18, 2017
through August 12, 2017. The University requested further
review, and on November 15, 2017, the Review Commission
ultimately affirmed their decision.
The University then appealed to the Portage County Court of
Common Pleas, which reversed the Review Commission's
grant of unemployment benefits, finding Mr. Hannam had
reasonable assurances as of the June 13, 2017 Reasonable
Assurances Letter. The instant appeal followed.
Mr. Hannam assigns two errors for our review, which we
 The trial court erred by reversing the Unemployment
Compensation Review Commission's decision when it found
Mr. Hannam was ineligible for benefits since he had
reasonable assurance of employment because the Review
Commission decision was not unlawful, unreasonable or against
the manifest weight of the evidence.
 The trial court erred by reversing the Unemployment
Compensation Review Commission's decision to grant Mr.
Hannam unemployment compensation benefits because Mr. Hannam
did not have reasonable assurances of employment as defined
by Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 5-17.
In reviewing the decision of the trial court in this matter,
we apply a manifest weight of the evidence standard of
review. According to R.C. 4141.282(H), "[i]f the
[reviewing] court finds that the decision of the commission
was unlawful, unreasonable, or against the manifest weight of
the evidence, it shall reverse, vacate, or modify the
decision, or remand the matter to the commission. Otherwise,
the court shall affirm the decision of the commission."
Though R.C. 4141.282 specifically addresses appeals to the
court of common pleas, and not to appellate courts, the
Supreme Court of Ohio has held that, in appeals from the
unemployment compensation review commission, the same
standard of review applies to both the court of common pleas
and the appellate court. Tzangas, Plakas & Mannos v.
Ohio Bur. of Emp. Serv., 73 Ohio St.3d 694 (1995),
paragraph one of the syllabus. "When we review the trial
court's decision, we apply the same standard. In such
cases, this Court is 'required to focus on the decision
of Review Commission, rather than that of the common pleas
court[.]'" Univ. of Akron v. Ohio Dept. of Job
& Family Servs., 9th Dist. Summit No. 24566,
2009-Ohio-3172, ¶9, quoting Markovich v. Employers
Unity, Inc., 9th Dist. Summit No. 21826, 2004-Ohio-4193.
Furthermore, "[t]he court's role is to determine
whether the decision of the Review Commission is supported by
evidence in the certified record. * * * If the reviewing
court finds that such support is found, then the court cannot
substitute its judgment for that of the Review Commission. *
* * The fact that reasonable minds might reach different
conclusions is not a basis for the reversal of the [Review
Commission's] decision.'" (citations ...