Kay v. Employment Dept.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 03-01-2017
  • Case #: A160405
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Shorr, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Tookey, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

When determining whether a claimant for unemployment benefits had a reasonable alternative to leaving work, the EAB must decide whether that reasonable alternative existed “at the time she left work.”

Petitioner (Kay) petitioned for review of an order by the Employment Appeals Board (EAB) denying her unemployment benefits. After Kay missed four consecutive workdays due to stress headaches, the company owner sent her two hostile text messages threatening to call the police on them. Kay did not return to work and filed for unemployment benefits. The Oregon Employment Department denied the benefits, concluding she was ineligible because she voluntarily left work without good cause. The ALJ and EAB affirmed. On appeal, Kay argued the EAB lacked substantial evidence and reason for its conclusion because a “reasonable and prudent person would think that talking to their employer” after receiving hostile text messages would be a futile act. In the unemployment benefit context, “good cause” is an objective standard that asks whether a reasonable and prudent person would consider the situation so grave that he or she had no reasonable alternative to quitting. Early v. Employment Dept., 274 Or App 321, 326 (2015). When determining whether a claimant for unemployment benefits had a reasonable alternative to leaving work, the EAB must decide whether that reasonable alternative existed “at the time she left work.” Constantine v. Employment Dept., 200 Or App 677, 683 (2005). Because the EAB based its conclusion solely on the communications that took place before Kay left work, and not on those that were present “at the time she left work,” the Court concluded the EAB did not properly assess the question of good cause in determining Kay’s eligibility for unemployment benefits.  Reversed and remanded.  

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