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Kentucky Unemployment Ins. Comm'n v. Blakeman

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 14, 2013

KENTUCKY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COMMISSION, APPELLANT
v.
JESSICA BLAKEMAN and MCLANE CUMBERLAND COMPANY, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM JESSAMINE CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE C. HUNTER DAUGHERTY, JUDGE. ACTION NO. 11-CI-00735.

AFFIRMING

BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Patrick B. Shirley, Frankfort, Kentucky.

NO BRIEF FOR APPELLEE.

BEFORE: ACREE, CHIEF JUDGE; LAMBERT AND STUMBO, JUDGES.

OPINION

Page 753

LAMBERT, JUDGE:

Appellant, Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, appeals from an order reversing its decision to deny benefits to Appellee, Jessica Blakeman. The Commission argues that the trial court erred by substituting its own view of the evidence when the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

In 1998, Blakeman began work as a selector for McLane Cumberland, which involves pulling product from shelves and placing the product into totes. On October 12, 2010, Blakeman suffered a non-work-related stress fracture in her foot and was placed in a walking boot. McLane Cumberland does not permit workers to wear open-toed shoes on the floor for safety reasons. Blakeman was placed on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) until she could wear a closed-toe shoe. Starting in 2008, McLane Cumberland policy required any worker that had been off work for more than 30 days to pass a physical agility test before returning to work. The purpose of this policy was to reduce injuries to workers returning after extended leave. On November 29, 2010, Blakeman failed the physical agility test. Despite attempts to increase her strength, Blakeman again failed the physical agility test two months later. Subsequently, Blakeman was discharged from her employment.

Blakeman filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Unemployment Referee found that Blakeman was entitled to benefits. The Commission concluded that Blakeman had voluntarily quit her job without good cause attributable to the employment and denied benefits. The Jessamine Circuit Court reversed the Commission and held that Blakeman was entitled to receive benefits. This appeal followed.

The Commission argues that the trial court erred by substituting its own view of the evidence when the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. We disagree.

In Thompson v. Kentucky Unemployment Ins. Comm'n, 85 S.W.3d 621, 624 (Ky. App. 2002), this Court set forth the applicable standard of review as follows:

The judicial standard of review of an unemployment benefit decision is whether the KUIC's findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence and whether the agency correctly applied the law to the facts. Substantial evidence is defined as evidence, taken alone or in light of all the evidence, that has sufficient probative value to induce conviction in the minds of reasonable people. If there is substantial evidence to support the agency's findings, a court must defer to that finding even though there is evidence to the contrary. A court may not substitute its opinion as to the credibility of the witnesses, the weight given the evidence, or the inferences to be drawn from the evidence. A court's function in administrative matters is one of review, not reinterpretation.

(Internal citations omitted). KRS 341.430(1) authorizes the Commission to " affirm, modify, or set aside any decision of a referee on the basis of the evidence previously submitted in such case, or direct the taking of additional evidence, or may permit any of the parties to such decision to initiate further appeals before it." " Unlike a conventional appellate body, the Commission conducts a de novo review of applications." Burch v. Taylor Drug Store, Inc., 965 S.W.2d 830, 834, 45 5 Ky. L. Summary 1 (Ky. App. 1998), abrogated on other grounds by Kentu ...


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