August 19, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Payments Made to Union President for Services Performed to Union Constituted “Wages” for Purposes of Unemployment Compensation

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Communications Workers of America 7717 v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on August 30, 2012.

Unemployment Compensation Benefits—“Wages.”

Communications Workers of America 7717 (employer) sought review of a final order of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) affirming a hearing officer’s decision determining that claimant was entitled to an award of unemployment compensation benefits. The order was affirmed.

From 2003 until February 2011, claimant worked part-time for employer, serving as union president. He was supervised by employer’s executive board. He also worked full-time for another employer (Qwest).

The hearing officer found that when the union wanted claimant to work on union business during times that he would be working for Qwest, employer paid him the equivalent wage he would have received from Qwest. The officer found employee was separated from this employment when employer merged with another local union chapter. The officer found no reason that claimant should be disqualified from receiving benefits based on the reason for the separation, and no reason that employer should be exempt from paying them.

On review to the Panel, employer argued the money it paid to employee did not constitute “wages” under the statute and that employee still had his full-time job with Qwest and therefore suffered no wage loss. The Panel held the nature of the payments made did not exempt employer from paying benefits and that the issue of ongoing work for Qwest was not properly before it. The hearing officer’s decision was affirmed by the Panel.

On appeal, employer renewed its argument that it did not pay “wages” to employee. CRS § 8-70-141(1)(a) defines “wages” as “[a]ll remuneration for personal services.” The undisputed evidence established that claimant provided personal services to employer by performing work as its president and was remunerated by employer with payments. The Court of Appeals saw no error in the finding that claimant was paid “wages” under the statutory scheme.

Employer also argued that claimant suffered no wage loss because he was still employed by Qwest. The Court agreed with the Panel that this was not properly before it for review. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

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