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Drew v. Maine Unemployment Security Commission

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

October 31, 2014

STEPHAN DREW, Petitioner,
v.
MAINE UNEMPLOYMENT SECURITY COMMISSION and NORTHEAST CHARTER SCHOOL BUS SERVICES, INC., Respondents.

ORDER ON PETITIONER'S M. R. CIV. P. 80C APPEAL

MICHAELA MURPHY JUSTICE.

Petitioner Stephan Drew appeals from the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission's ("Commission") majority decision finding Petitioner voluntarily left his regular employment with Northeast Charter School Bus Services ("Northeast") without good cause and was therefore disqualified from collecting unemployment benefits. Petitioner alleges he did not intend to resign his position, but merely wanted drive a different route or take on a different position within Northeast. For the reasons discussed below, the Court affirms the Commission's decision and denies Petitioner's appeal.

I. Background

Petitioner Stephan Drew worked for Northeast Charter School Bus Services ("Northeast"), from August 26, 2011 to March 5, 2013 as a school bus driver for Northeast's transportation business. Petitioner's initial duties consisted of working as a "spare driver, " taking on driving jobs on an as needed basis. Record ("R.") at 151, 439. By the fall of 2012, and continuing until the end of his employment in March 2013, Petitioner drove a school bus route Monday through Friday, mornings and afternoons. R. at 409, 427, 439. Petitioner would occasionally drive the bus for special extra-curricular trips outside of school hours. R. at 440.

During 2012, Petitioner began experiencing difficulties with a particular child ("PC"), who routinely engaged in inappropriate behavior and would not comply with Petitioner's instructions. R. at 443. Petitioner filed disciplinary reports against PC on December 6, 2012, December 21, 2012, February 1, 2013, and March 4, 2013. R. at 112-117, 130, 286-93. Petitioner asked his manager, Christy McLain, why PC was not suspended after the second disciplinary report. R. at 2, 448. Ms. McLain explained it was because Petitioner issued the write up immediately prior to the Christmas break and too much time had elapsed to discipline PC by the time school came back into session after the holiday break. R. at 239, 448. Ms. McLain recommended that Petitioner place PC in the front of the bus. R. at 448.

On March 4, 2013, Petitioner told Ms. McLain that there had been another incident with PC and he would be issuing another disciplinary report. R. at 451, 301. This disciplinary report would have subjected PC to a ten-day suspension from the bus. R. at 242. The following day, March 5, 2013, Petitioner asked Ms. McLain why PC had not been removed from the bus. R. at 451, 2. Ms. McLain responded that PC's mother had called and wanted to set up a meeting with the superintendent (the "PC meeting"). R. at 451. Ms. McLain testified that PC's mother wanted the meeting to include Petitioner, the superintendent, Ms. McLain, and some witnesses. R. at 240.

There is a factual dispute as to what Ms. McLain told Petitioner on March 5, 2013 regarding the PC meeting. R. 2. Petitioner avers he was not told of the initially scheduled meeting date of March 7, 2013. See R. at 453-55. In support, he points to a March 19, 2014 email correspondence between himself and the superintendent's assistant, Coleen Souza. See attachment to Pet.'s Brief. In the correspondence, Petitioner states that he had approached Ms. Souza on March 7, 2013 to inquire into the date of the meeting regarding PC and was informed that the meeting was postponed. Id. Ms. Souza did not verify any of Petitioner's claims and instead informed him that he should not contact the superintendent's office with questions about school bus operation as those services were contracted out. Id.

Ms. McLain claims she told Petitioner about the meeting while she and Petitioner were at an elementary school waiting to drive a bus route and would let Petitioner know the exact time of the meeting the following morning. R. at 241. Neither party disputes that Ms. McLain informed Petitioner on March 5, 2013 that a meeting regarding PC's conduct on the bus was in the works. The Commission majority found the testimony of Ms. McLain more credible than Petitioner's and determined that Ms. McLain informed Petitioner the PC meeting was scheduled for March 7, 2013. R. 2.

Later on March 5, 2013, Petitioner sent Ms. McLain a text message stating:

HI CHRISTY, Just wanted to cover all bases. Left voice messages on both of your phones. Sorry again for the short notice. But I just can NOT make this afternoon's run. I am suffering from a SEVERE tension headache that feels like it is about to kill me. I need to get home and try to relax. Rather die in bed than on a school bus. © Hope to be able to rest enough tonight to make tomorrow. My SINCEREST APOLOGIES for the inconvenience. But I would not be any good to anyone this way anyway.:{(

R. at 316, 451-53.

At approximately 4:19 a.m. the following day on March 6, 2013, Petitioner sent Ms. McLain another text message stating:

HI CHRISTY, I am sorry, but I am afraid that I am not going to be able to make it this morning. Been awake much of the night. I need to try and be rested for the safety meeting this morning. I have been thinking also that, under the circumstances, it may be better just to find someone else to take over that run. I do not feel that I can be objective anymore, with what has gone on. It would be better, I feel, for me to do something else. I really have no interest or desire to continue to drive that's [sic] run. I ...

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