July 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Unemployment Claimant’s Coworker Not Employer so Benefits Wrongly Awarded

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Yotes, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, August 15, 2013.

Unemployment Compensation—Resignation—Personal Harassment—Delayed Employer Response to Employee Complaint— “Coworker” Vs. “Employer.”

In this unemployment compensation case, petitioner Yotes, Inc. (employer) sought review of a final order of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) reversing a hearing officer’s decision and awarding unemployment compensation benefits to claimant under CRS § 8-73-108(4). The Court of Appeals set aside the order.

The hearing officer found that claimant resigned because he believed that employer was not acting quickly enough in responding to his complaint of sexual harassment from a coworker. The hearing officer also found that employer was taking the complaint seriously and claimant did not allow employer reasonable time to conduct an investigation and determine the appropriate action. Therefore, the hearing officer concluded that claimant was at fault for the separation and that a disqualification of unemployment benefits was warranted. The Panel reversed the hearing officer’s decision and awarded benefits to claimant.

Employer contended that the Panel erred when it awarded benefits to claimant under CRS § 8-73-108(4)(o). When an employee quits “because of personal harassment by the employernot related to the performance of the job,” benefits must be awarded to the employee. Here, claimant’s coworker was not an employer under the statute. Therefore, the Panel erred as a matter of law when it defined “employer” to include claimant’s coworker. Further, there was no evidence of personal harassment by employer. Because employer had indefinitely removed claimant from the adverse working conditions and claimant did not remain at the job long enough to learn whether the adverse conditions would be eliminated, claimant was not entitled to benefits. Accordingly, the Panel erred in awarding benefits to claimant and the order was set aside.

Summary and full case available here.

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