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Cheney v. Unemployment Insurance Commission

Supreme Court of Maine

July 12, 2016

SARAH E. CHENEY
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE COMMISSION

          Argued: June 9, 2016

         Kennebec County Superior Court docket number AP-2014-71

         On the briefs:

          Adrianne E. Fouts, Esq., Drummond Woodsum, Portland, for appellant Sarah E. Cheney

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Nancy Macirowski, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Unemployment Insurance Commission

         At oral argument:

          Adrianne E. Fouts, Esq., for appellant Sarah E. Cheney

          Nancy Macirowski, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee Unemployment Insurance Commission

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] Sarah E. Cheney appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Marden, J.) affirming a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Commission that upheld a hearing officer's decision denying her claim for unemployment benefits on the ground that she was not available to work full-time within the meaning of 26 M.R.S. § 1192(3) (2015) and Commission rules. Cheney contends that the Commission erred in its construction of the statute, and that its decision is contrary to public policy. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts, drawn from the administrative record, are not disputed. Sarah Cheney began working for Global Montello Group Corporation at the Augusta "Mobil on the Run" gas station and convenience store in November 2008, eventually becoming assistant manager. She normally worked forty hours per week on shifts encompassing weekends and some weekdays. Cheney was on maternity leave from mid-August 2013 until November 6, 2013. When she returned, disputes with her employer arose over a change to her schedule that made her childcare situation more difficult, and over an appropriate place for her to pump breast milk at work. Two days later, due primarily to the latter issue, she gave her two-week notice.

         [¶3] Cheney's claim for unemployment benefits was denied by the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation in two Deputy's Decisions, both issued January 22, 2014. The first, Deputy's Decision No. 6, ruled that Cheney voluntarily left her employment without good cause.[1] The second, Deputy's Decision No. 8, ruled that Cheney was not "able to work and available for work" within the meaning of 26 M.R.S. § 1192(3).[2]

         [¶4] Cheney appealed both decisions to the Department of Labor's Division of Administrative Hearings. See 26 M.R.S. § 1194(3) (2015). After holding telephonic hearings on the appeals, during which Cheney testified, the Hearing Officer affirmed both Deputy's Decisions. Cheney appealed the Hearing Officer's decisions to the Unemployment Insurance Commission pursuant to 26 M.R.S. § 1194(3), (5) (2015). In the first of two September 30, 2014, decisions, the Commission set aside Deputy's Decision No. 6 upon finding that the lack of a suitable place to pump breast milk constituted good cause for Cheney to leave her employment. That decision is not before us on appeal. The second decision ...


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