The Sixth District affirms that fault is an essential component to just cause and explains it, "will not disrupt the hearing officer's decision to accord more weight to claimant's live testimony over the appellant's hearsay evidence."
Midwest Terminals of Toledo Internatl., Inc. v. Dir., Ohio Dept. Of Job & Family Servs., 2016-Ohio-328 (6th Dist.)
January 29, 2016
The claimant, Otis K. Brown, was employed as a skill laborer for twelve years when he was terminated in October 2013 due to allegations of driving a front end loader "improperly and, most likely purposefully, rode the brakes throughout his 12 hour shift." The employer claimed the cost for repairs exceeded $24,000.00.
After a hearing with the UCRC, the hearing officer concluded that he was discharged without just cause after reasoning that, "The claimant provided the more credible firsthand, sworn testimony in which he denies riding the brakes, denies engaging the parking brake for an extended period of time, and denies causing damage to the brakes at all." The Employer appealed this decision to the Common Pleas Court, which affirmed the UCRC decision. The Employer attempted again, bringing this appeal to the Sixth District.
After first reviewing its limited standard of review, "limited to determining whether the UCRC's decision is supported by the evidence in the record," the Sixth District explained that just cause is, "that which, to an ordinarily intelligent person, is a justifiable reason for doing or not doing a particular act." The Sixth District also affirmed that fault on behalf of the employee is an essential comment of just cause.
The Sixth District first rejected the employer's argument that the hearing officer inappropriately focused only on whether Brown had misused the emergency brake rather than on whether he was riding the brakes. The Sixth District observed that the hearing officer simply found Brown presented more credible firsthand, sworn testimony that he did not damage the brakes, "whether by riding the brakes or misusing the parking brake."
The Sixth District also rejected the employer's argument that the hearing officer failed to give proper weight to a work order prepared by a service technician that concluded that Brown had not used the machine properly. After noting that service technician was not called as a witness, the Sixth District explained, "We will not disrupt the hearing officer's decision to accord more weight to claimant's live testimony over the appellant's hearsay evidence." Therefore, the Sixth District affirmed the UCRC's determination.
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