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Arnold v. Phillips

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 22, 2018

EDWARD RONNY ARNOLD
v.
BURNS PHILLIPS, COMMISSIONER TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

          Session February 5, 2018

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 16-1174-IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor.

         A state employee who lost his job due to a reduction-in-force was placed on administrative leave with pay and received a severance package. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied his claim for unemployment benefits for the period in which he received administrative leave with pay. As the employee acknowledges, he subsequently received the maximum unemployment benefits allowable for the applicable one-year period. Therefore, the employee cannot receive benefits for the contested period, which is the relief sought in this case. This case cannot provide relief to the employee, and the appeal is moot.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed

          Edward Ronny Arnold, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and William Derek Green, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Burns Phillips, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Richard H. Dinkins, J., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE.

         Edward Ronny Arnold began working for the Tennessee Department of General Services in 1993. His most recent position was as an information resource support specialist earning between $4, 000.00 and $4, 500.00 a month. On October 26, 2015, Mr. Arnold received a notice that his position was being eliminated as part of a reduction-in-force and that he would be separated on November 25, 2015, unless he found alternative employment with the State. In lieu of the statutorily-required thirty-day notice, Mr. Arnold was placed on administrative leave with pay until November 25, 2015, and instructed to leave the employer's premises. He also received notice that he would receive a severance package, which included a payment of $3, 200.00 and tuition assistance.

         Mr. Arnold submitted a claim for unemployment benefits to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("the Department") on October 28, 2015, and his claim was denied. He appealed to the Appeals Tribunal ("the Tribunal") and, after a hearing on January 6, 2016, the Tribunal issued a decision that Mr. Arnold was generally eligible for benefits because he was unemployed and was not at fault for the separation. By this time, the Department had issued three checks to Mr. Arnold, including his $3, 200.00 severance payment. On remand, in a decision entered on January 12, 2016, the Department found that Mr. Arnold had received wages in lieu of notice and could not receive unemployment benefits through the week ending December 5, 2015. In a separate decision, dated January 13, 2016, the Department determined that Mr. Arnold received a $275 overpayment for one week due to his receipt of the severance package that week. Mr. Arnold appealed both decisions, which were consolidated.

         After a rescheduling and a continuance, the appeal was heard on August 17, 2016. The Tribunal upheld the January 2016 Department decisions in a ruling issued on August 18, 2016. Mr. Arnold appealed to the Commissioner's Designee ("the Designee"), who determined that an additional hearing was necessary to accept new evidence. Mr. Arnold failed to appear at this hearing. In a decision issued on September 28, 2016, the Designee concluded that Mr. Arnold was disqualified from receiving benefits during the contested period (October 31 through November 28, 2015) because he received wages in lieu of notice. The Designee found that the severance payment did not disqualify Mr. Arnold from receiving benefits for the week of December 5, 2015.

         Mr. Arnold filed a petition for judicial review of the Designee's decision in chancery court, and the trial court affirmed the decision of the Designee, adopting and incorporating in full the Designee's decision. Mr. Arnold appeals.

         Analysis

         Mr. Arnold sets forth a number of arguments on appeal, but the overarching issue is whether he is entitled to unemployment benefits for the contested period. In his appellate brief and at oral argument, Mr. Arnold admits that he has already been paid benefits for the maximum number of weeks (26) allowable under the Employment Security Law for the one-year base period beginning on the date of his claim on October 28, 2015. See Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 50-7-301(d)(1)(A) (limiting benefits to "[t]wenty-six (26) times the claimant's weekly benefit amount"). Thus, ...


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