COA: Unemployment dispute fails to clear good cause hurdle

A car salesman who claimed his employer failed to pay him what he had been promised could not get the Indiana Court of Appeals to buy his argument that he qualified for unemployment benefits because he had good cause to quit his job.

William Foley had sold vehicles for Twin City Dodge, Inc., since April 2019. He was laid off in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but returned to the sales lot about a month later.

According to Foley, the dealership’s general manager guaranteed to pay him 75% of what he had averaged in 2019 for two months plus commissions. However, his first paycheck, dated April 24, did not reflect what he said had been promised. Believing he had been brought back to work under false pretenses, Foley quit three days later and filed for unemployment benefits with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Twin City Dodge filed a protest but a DWD claims investigator greenlighted Foley’s benefits, finding the dealership had failed to provide the separation information. An administrative law judge put that determination in reverse by ruling Foley had left his job without good cause and Twin City had timely filed the required documents.

Foley then turned to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the ALJ’s denial in William C. Foley v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Twin City Dodge, Inc., 20A-EX-1839.

Citing Quillen v. Rev. Bd of Ind. Emp. Sec. Div., 468 N.E.2d 238, 241-242 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984), the appellate panel noted when an employer unilaterally changes the agreed-upon employment terms, the worker may resign for good cause but “the circumstances must also be so unfair or unjust as to compel a reasonably prudent person to quit work.”

Here, the Court of Appeals pointed out the ALJ and the DWD Board had not found sufficient evidence of the pay agreement which Foley referenced. Also, the human resources employee at Twin City told the DWD she had not received any notification of a new pay plan for Foley.

“Based upon the evidence as set forth above and in the record, we cannot say that Employer unilaterally changed Foley’s employment terms and therefore, Foley has failed to meet his burden to prove his circumstances were so unfair or unjust as to compel a reasonably prudent person to quit,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court. “We do not disturb the Board’s conclusion that Foley voluntarily left his employment without good cause in connection with the work.”

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