RICKEY G. YOUNG
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, ET AL.
Session August 12, 2014
Direct Appeal from the Chancery Court for Gibson County No. H5802 George R. Ellis, Chancellor
Rickey G. Young, Pro Se.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Derek C. Jumper, Acting Solicitor General and Paul Jordan Scott, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
W. Michael Maloan, Sp. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, J. and J. Steven Stafford, J., joined.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
W. MICHAEL MALOAN, SP. JUDGE
I. Background and Procedural History
In July 2012, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (the "Department") discharged petitioner/appellant Rickey G. Young, who had been employed by the Department as an unemployment benefits hearing officer since 2004. Mr. Young subsequently petitioned the Department for unemployment benefits. The Department denied Mr. Young's claim in its initial decision, finding that his termination was the result of workplace misconduct. Specifically, the Department found that Mr. Young was discharged for "failure to perform assigned duties according to supervisor's expectations" and for "failing to change a decision after being instructed to by his supervisor." The Department found that despite receiving prior warnings, Mr. Young knew of his employer's expectations and failed to comply with them.
Mr. Young appealed the initial decision to the Department's Appeals Tribunal, which conducted a hearing on the matter on January 28, 2013. Hearing officer Eric Davis presided over the Appeals Tribunal hearing. Mr. Young represented himself and did not present any witnesses. During the hearing, the Department introduced documents showing that Mr. Young was suspended from the Department in 2011 for, among other things, contravening Department guidelines and state law to grant benefits to certain claimants. When questioned about the suspension, Mr. Young stated that he felt it was unfair and recounted a meeting during which the Department's then Commissioner encouraged the hearing officers to grant more benefits. Mr. Davis responded, stating that he had attended the same meeting, and that after the Commissioner spoke, a state attorney warned the hearing officers to continue to follow the Department's guidelines.
Following the hearing, Mr. Davis issued a written opinion affirming the initial decision to deny Mr. Young's petition for unemployment benefits. Mr. Davis found that the evidence presented by the Department was sufficient to establish that Mr. Young engaged in workplace misconduct. Mr. Young subsequently appealed to the Commissioner's Designee, which also affirmed the decision.
Next, Mr. Young petitioned for judicial review of the Department's decision in the Chancery Court of Gibson County. In his petition, Mr. Young argued that the Department's finding of workplace misconduct was not supported by material and substantial evidence, and that the Department denied him a fair and impartial hearing. Mr. Young alleged that he had not violated agency policies, but had been terminated for making decisions without regard to his supervisor's "biased" opinions. Mr. Young requested that the trial court either reverse the decision or "remand the matter for a new hearing with a new hearing officer." The Department answered, denying the allegations in Mr. Young's petition, and asserting that the petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Prior to a scheduled hearing on the matter, Mr. Young filed a brief in support of his petition. In the brief, Mr. Young primarily contended that he did not receive a fair and impartial hearing. Mr. Young argued that Mr. Davis was biased against him, and that Mr. Davis essentially testified for the Department during the hearing when he qualified Mr. Young's statement that the former Commissioner instructed hearing officers to grant more benefits. Additionally, Mr. Young contended that the Department falsified exhibits as well as the Appeals Tribunal hearing transcript. In response to Mr. Young's brief, the Department filed a motion to remand the matter to the Department for a new hearing. The Department acknowledged the potential conflict of interest caused by Mr. Young's former colleague, Mr. Davis, presiding over his hearing, and proposed that the matter be reheard before a neutral administrative law judge. Mr. Young responded by objecting to the Department's motion for remand, arguing that any further action at the agency level would be similarly biased. On November 5, 2013, the trial court granted the Department's motion and remanded the matter to the Department for a new hearing conducted by a hearing officer of the Administrative Procedures Division of the Tennessee Secretary of State. The court emphasized that Mr. Young's right to judicial review would be preserved and would remain available to him.
Mr. Young filed a timely appeal to this Court. On appeal, Mr. Young contends that the trial court erred in remanding this matter to the Department for a new hearing. Additionally, Mr. Young requests that this Court address ...