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Judge: School corp.’s inattentiveness doesn’t support benefits reversal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was split Wednesday over whether a notice sent regarding a hearing on unemployment benefits required reversing the grant of benefits because the employer found the notice confusing.

The majority in Hamilton Heights School Corp. v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and Sherri K. Stepp, and The Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, 93A02-1210-EX-795, reversed the decision by the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to grant Sherri Stepp unemployment benefits. Stepp worked as a custodian for Hamilton Heights School Corp. when she was fired after an on-the-job argument with a co-worker.

An administrative law judge, through a telephone hearing in July 2012, affirmed that Stepp was ineligible for benefits. Stepp appealed to the review board, which ordered a new hearing because the July hearing was “inadvertently destroyed” before the board could review the ALJ’s decision. The notice sent for the August hearing indicated it would be held in person, but the notice and attached acknowledgement sheet and instructions also included conflicting information that suggested the hearing would be held by telephone.

The school corporation did not show up in person and tried to call in. The ALJ found that Stepp was entitled to benefits because the school corporation did not participate in the hearing.

“Where, as is the case here, a prior hearing was held telephonically and no party has requested an in-person hearing, the conflicting nature of the information contained in these documents and instructions could lead a reasonable person to believe that the hearing would be conducted telephonically,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

“It is especially troublesome that a party could participate in and be successful following a hearing, have that hearing vacated through no fault of its own, be prepared for and willing to participate in a subsequent hearing, and attempt to contact the ALJ when not contacted for the hearing, only to have a ruling issued against it for failure to participate.”

Bradford and Judge Elaine Brown reversed and remanded for a hearing on the merits.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, pointing to inattentiveness on the part of the school corporation to assume the August hearing would be held by phone.

“We are therefore left with the following legal precedent: an employer is denied due process by failing to participate at an unemployment compensation hearing when such failure is caused by a) the employer’s reliance on procedures followed at a prior hearing and b) its confusion resulting from the language contained in the notice of a subsequent hearing,” Riley wrote, referring to the majority’s decision. “However, I am constrained to find a simple failure to read tantamount to a due process violation.”

 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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