The employee was a dental hygienist who worked four days a week. She suffered a neck and back injury and received workers compensation benefits for permanent impairment. She continued to work three or four days a week for a time, but then reduced her schedule to two days. Employer claimed this reduction was because she wanted to spend more time with her family. Several years later, employer asked employee to resume working three days a week. If she couldn?t do that, he offered her a position as an on-call or substitute hygienist. Employee didn?t like any of these?? alternatives?? and?? interpreted?? employer?s request as a notice of termination, and told him ?I hear you are saying I am fired.??? She did not tell the employer her disability prevented her from working more than two days a week.
Employee? filed? for? unemployment,? claiming? she had been fired. Employer asserted she had quit. The application did not mention a disability. ESD found she had quit for personal reasons without good cause. The ALJ and the Commissioner affirmed.
The Superior Court reversed and ordered benefits to be paid. The Court found the employee?s disability prevented her from working more than two days a week. The court of appeals reversed the Superior Court and held that substantial evidence supports the denial of benefits. Employee appealed. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the court? of? appeals? and? the? denial? of? benefits. Justice Wiggins held that the employee had waived? the? argument? that ?her? situation constituted a ?refusal to work? rather than a ?quit.? It was insufficient that the amicus brief supporting the employee (filed by WELA among other groups) had made this argument. The employee had also failed to meaningfully challenge the court of appeals? finding that her separation was a ?quit? rather than a ?termination.? ?In any event, substantial evidence supported the agency?s determination of a ?quit.?
Given that, the remaining issue was whether the employee could establish ?good cause? to quit under the statute. The employee did not meet the statutory ??disability? ?justification? for ?leaving work voluntarily because disability was not the primary reason she left work and she did not exhaust all reasonable alternatives before leaving work. The Court noted the employee never presented any medical documentation to her employer regarding her disability. The Court refused to expand the ?good cause? justifications to include the employee?s desire to perform part-time work. The list set forth in the current unemployment statute is exclusive. The Court ?also ?rejected ?the ?argument ?that ?RCW 50.20.119 protected her decision to decline part- time work. That statute by its terms applies only to individuals who are already unemployed.
Darkenwald ?v. ?ESD,? ???????Wn.2d? ?????????,? ?????????P.3d??????? ?(5/21/15).