Jack Nelson Jones Professional Association
November 4-10, 2019
Shattara Welch v. Director, Dept. of Workfoece Svcs., and Motel 6, 2019 Ark. App. 498 (Oct. 23, 2019)
This case came on appeal from the Arkansas Board of Review of the Department of Workforce Services (“Board”). Shatarra Welch appealed from the finding of the Board that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. The Board found that Welch voluntarily left her employment at Motel 6 without good cause connected with the work. Because this finding is not supported by substantial evidence, the Court of Appeals (“Court”) reversed and remanded.
On appeal, the Court noted that it reviews the findings of the Board in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, reversing only when the Board’s findings are not supported by substantial evidence. It observed that substantial evidence is such evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Even when there is evidence on which the Board might have reached a different decision, the scope of the Court’s judicial review is limited to a determination of whether the Board could reasonably reach its decision on the evidence before it. In addition, issues of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be afforded their testimony are matters for the Board to determine.
The Court noted that, although the employer did not appear at the hearing before the Appeal Tribunal, the evidence submitted to the Board by both the employer and Welch demonstrated that she was actually discharged and did not quit. The “discharge” form submitted by the employer stated that Welch was discharged for “absence, tardy, no-call no-show, unreliable” and provided that the “final decision” was made on Oct. 8. The employer also submitted two letters that both stated Welch was “terminated due to reliability issues.” One letter provided a timeline of Welch’s attendance at work from Oct. 1 to Oct. 8 and stated that “[i]n addition to above the employee used to be late to come to work quite often and due to these problems we decided to terminate the employee.” The letter went on to note that Welch reached out to one of the employer’s front-desk staff on Oct. 12, that the employer offered to meet with her, and that Welch said she could not come to the motel during the offered times. The letter stated that “[i]f she wanted to be reconsidered she could have made an effort to come during daytime and speak to the owner.”
As with the employer, Welch submitted a form stating that she was discharged for absenteeism on Oct. 8. She wrote on the form and testified at the hearing that she received a text message from the manager on Oct. 8 telling her “do not return to work.” Welch testified that an employee who was not a member of management later proposed that Welch come in between 3 and 4 p.m. on Oct. 12. Welch did not go because a manager had already told her not to return, and the employee did not tell her that she had spoken to management on Welch’s behalf.
The Court noted that Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-10-513(a)(1) (Repl. 2012) provides that an individual shall be disqualified for benefits if she voluntarily and without good cause connected with the work left her last work. The Board had found that Welch did not show a good-faith effort to remain employed because she refused to meet with the owner to discuss her return to work after the Oct. 12 communication. The Court, however, found that this finding was not supported by substantial evidence because the evidence showed that Welch had already been discharged by Oct. 12. It noted that both Welch and the employer stated that she was discharged on Oct. 8; thus, the Court found that her failure to meet with the employer after Oct. 12 to be “reconsidered” was irrelevant. Accordingly, the reversed and remanded for the Board to determine whether the circumstances of Welch’s discharge entitled her to benefits in accordance with Arkansas Code Annotated section 11-10-514 (Supp. 2017).