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Creps v. Idaho Dep't of Labor

June 28, 2010

RUTH A. CREPS, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 72

The decision of the Industrial Commission is affirmed.

This is an appeal from the Idaho Industrial Commission‟s (Industrial Commission) determination that the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL or the Department of Labor) properly denied Ruth Creps‟ (Creps) application for assistance from the Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The Industrial Commission found that the Executive MBA program offered by Boise State University (BSU) was substantially similar to BSU‟s traditional MBA program "in the content, quality and result" and denied the application based on the requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 617.22(a)(6), governing applications to the TAA program. Creps now appeals. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Creps was formerly employed by Micron Technology and was laid off in 2007. In 2008, Creps applied for assistance from the TAA program to support her participation in BSU‟s Executive MBA program. The TAA program is designed to provide training for workers who have been laid off as a result of international trade competition. 19 U.S.C. § 2296. The Department of Labor, the agency responsible for administering the TAA program in Idaho, rejected Creps‟ application stating that:

According to the information provided, the Executive MBA program at BSU costs $41,000, while the traditional MBA program at BSU costs approximately $14,000. A BSU representative confirmed that the end result of each program is the same. Therefore, the Executive MBA program cannot be approved due to the high cost.

Both BSU‟s Executive MBA program and its traditional MBA program lead to an MBA degree. The two programs differ in that the Executive MBA program is geared towards individuals with significant work experience, it does not require that applicants take the GMAT admissions test, and the curriculum provides more tailored coursework with executive coaching and residency programs. However, the cost of the Executive MBA program is approximately $41,000, while the traditional MBA program costs approximately $14,000. This cost difference is partially due to the fact that books, materials and fees are included in the Executive MBA‟s costs.

Creps appealed the Department of Labor‟s decision to an appeals examiner who found that the two programs were "not equal in content and quality, and although the result in obtaining an MBA degree is the same, the MBA degrees are not "equal‟ in every way as the Department asserts." Because the "Executive MBA program will better allow the claimant to reach" the goal of securing employment at a skill level similar to the level at which she was previously employed, the appeals examiner approved Creps‟ application.

The Department of Labor then appealed to the Idaho Industrial Commission. The findings of fact by the Industrial Commission included that Creps was laid off and previously earned approximately $90,000; that she applied to enter the Executive MBA program at BSU which costs approximately $41,000; that the Department of Labor denied Creps‟ application for TAA assistance because the traditional MBA program costs $14,000; and that both traditional and Executive MBA programs are two year programs and result in the same degree, although the Executive MBA program involves students with more professional experience and has smaller, more integrated courses than the traditional MBA program. Based on these findings and the language of 20 C.F.R. § 617.22(a)(6), which governs TAA approval, the Industrial Commission found that Creps "has not persuaded us that the programs are so dissimilar in the training they offer in [her] chosen career that they are not comparable in the context of the TAA criteria." The Industrial Commission therefore found that the denial of Creps‟ application was proper because the Executive MBA program "does not satisfy the "lowest cost‟ requirement of 20 C.F.R. § 617.22(a)(6) . . . ." Creps now appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Reviews of TAA determinations are "subject to review in the same manner and to the same extent as determinations and redeterminations under the applicable State law, and only in that manner and to that extent." 20 C.F.R. § 617.51(a). The TAA is an unemployment benefit and the Idaho Industrial Commission is authorized to hear and decide matters appealed to it in accordance with the Idaho Employment Security Law. I.C. § 72-1332. See also Hampe v. Butler, 364 F.3d 90, 91 (3d Cir. 2004) ("The Trade Act of 1974 . . . provides unemployment compensation, training, job search, relocation, allowances and other benefits to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of competition from imports.").

When this Court reviews a decision of the Industrial Commission, it exercises free review over questions of law, but reviews questions of fact only to determine whether substantial and competent evidence supports the Commission‟s findings. Substantial and competent evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. Because the Commission is the fact finder, its conclusions on the credibility and weight of the evidence will not be disturbed on appeal unless they are clearly ...


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