Attorney for Commission: Nancy Macirowski, Office of the
Attorney General Bonney Staffing Center Inc.
ORDER ON 80C PETITION
I. BILLINGS JUSTICE, MAINE SUPERIOR COURT.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Lorraine
Schleis's Rule 80C appeal of the Maine Unemployment
Insurance Commission's (the "Commission's")
decision to temporarily disqualify Ms. Schleis from receiving
unemployment benefits pursuant to 26 M.R.S. § 1193(3).
See 26 M.R.S. § 1194(8); 5 M.R.S. § 11001
et seq.; M.R. Civ. P. 80C. The Commission affirmed
and adopted the Administrative Hearing Officer's decision
that Ms. Schleis should be temporarily disqualified from
receiving unemployment benefits because she refused to accept
an offer of suitable work, and that her employer's
experience rating record would not be changed.
to becoming unemployed, Ms. Schleis worked on and off for a
staffing agency as a customer service representative in
Rockland making $12.50 per hour. (R. 37-39.) Ms. Schleis
became unemployed on March 22, 2016, and registered to
receive unemployment benefits beginning on our about March
28, 2016. (R. 22, 37, 59, 61.)
April 28, 2016, Kelli Williams, a representative of the
staffing agency, contacted Ms. Schleis and offered her a
temporary 30-hour per week office assistant position located
in Belfast at the rate of $12.00 per hour (R. 40.) Ms.
Schleis understood Belfast to be about thirty miles from her
home in Rockland. (R. 44.) Ms. Schleis was only-willing to
commute ten to fifteen miles to work so she told Ms. Williams
that Belfast was outside of her range. (R. 40, 44-45.)
June 7, 2016, hearing before the Administrative Hearing
Officer, Ms. Schleis testified that Ms. Williams did not give
her any details about the job other than the location. (R.
43.) Ms. Williams, who appeared on behalf of the staffing
agency, testified that she did give Ms. Schleis more
information about the job. (R. 48.) Ms. Schleis had never
worked as an office assistant, but she testified that the job
duties as later described to her were "plausible."
(R. 46.) She further testified that the pay and the hours of
the offered position as later described to her were
"acceptable." (R. 46.)
the April 28, 2016, telephone conversation, Ms. Williams
notified the Department of Labor Bureau of Unemployment
Compensation (the "Bureau") that Ms. Schleis had
refused an offer of employment. (R. 66-67.) The Bureau, in
Deputy Decision No. 10, dated May 9, 2016, found that Ms.
Schleis had refused an offer of suitable work. (R. 58-63.)
Following the June 7, 2016 telephonic hearing, the
Administrative Hearing Officer, in Decision No. 2016-A-02822,
dated June 14, 2016, found that Ms. Schleis had refused an
offer of suitable work. (R. 21-24.) Ms. Schleis appealed to
the Commission. (R. 12-20.) Through the Chair acting alone,
Commission issued Decision No. 16-C-03540, dated August 3,
2016, affirming and adopting the decision of the
Administrative Hearing Officer, with no additional facts
taken. (R. 9-11.) Ms. Schleis requested reconsideration
pursuant to 12-172 C.M.R. ch. 9 § 2(C) (2016). (R. 4-8.)
Through the Chair acting alone,  the Commission issued
Decision No. 16-C-04366, dated September 15, 2016, denying
Ms. Schleis' request for reconsideration. (R. 1-3.) Ms.
Schleis filed her Rule 80C petition in this matter on
September 19, 2016.
appellate capacity, the court reviews agency decisions for
"abuse of discretion, error of law, or findings not
supported by the evidence." Rangeley Crossroads
Coal. v. Land Use Reg. Comm'n, 2008 ME 115, ¶
10, 955 A.2d 223. The burden of proof is generally on the
petitioner to prove that "no competent evidence supports
the [agency's] decision and that the record compels a
contrary conclusion." Bischoff v. Bd. of Trs.,
661 A.2d 167, 170 (Me. 1995). See also Proctor v. Me.
Emp't Sec. Com., 406 A.2d 905, 907 (Me. 1979)
(petitioner carries the burden of proving that a job offer
was not suitable); but see Tobin v. Me. Emp't Sec.
Comm'n, 420 A.2d 222, 225 (Me. 1980) (the Commission
carries the burden of proving suitability when the job offer
was a "referral-direction" from a local employment
office). "Inconsistent evidence will not render an
agency decision unsupported." Bischoff, 661
A.2d at 170. "Judges may not substitute their judgment
for that of the agency merely because the evidence could give
rise to more than one result." Gulick v. Bd. of
Envtl. Prot., 452 A.2d 1202, 1209 (Me. 1982). The court
will not overrule findings of fact supported by substantial
evidence, defined as "such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the
resultant conclusion." Lewiston Daily Sun v.
Unemployment Ins. Comm'n, 1999 ME 90, ¶ 7, 733
A.2d 344 (quoting Crocker v. Me. Emp't Sec.
Comm'n, 450 A.2d 469, 471 (Me. 1982)).
Maine's Employment Security Law, 26 M.R.S. § 1041 et
seq., an individual shall be disqualified from receiving
unemployment benefits "[f]or the duration of the
individual's unemployment subsequent to the
individual's having refused to accept an offer of
suitable work for which the individual is reasonably fitted .
. . ." 26 M.R.S. § 1193(3) (2015). The question of
the suitability of the work offered in a given case is one of
fact. Clarke v. Me. Unemployment Ins. Com., 491 A.2d
549, 551 (Me. 1985).
Schleis apparently argues that the position offered was not
suitable because she was not qualified for office work and
because thirty miles is an unreasonable commute. However, Ms.
Schleis testified before the Administrative Hearing Officer
that the required duties of the offered position were
"plausible." (R. 46.) Furthermore, the court agrees
with the Commission's conclusion that thirty miles is a
reasonable commuting distance in the State of Maine. (R. 23.)
Schleis also argues that she did not actually refuse the
position because she "was never even told what it
was." (Pet.'s Br. 4.) Indeed, Ms. Schleis testified
before the Administrative Hearing Officer that Ms. Williams
did not give her any details about the position other than
its location. (R. 43.) However, Ms. Williams testified that
she did give Ms. Schleis more details about the
position, including "what the job entailed" and the
rate of pay. (R. 48.) Furthermore, the Commission found that
although Ms. Williams might not have given Ms. Schleis all of
the details of the offered position, "the record
demonstrates that [Ms. Schleis] declined the job without
allowing [Ms, Williams] to provide all of the details."
The court agrees with the ...