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Lincoln F. Mcnulty v. Sinclair Oil Corporation

March 5, 2012

LINCOLN F. MCNULTY, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT,
v.
SINCLAIR OIL CORPORATION, DBA SUN VALLEY CO.; THE SAWTOOTH CLUB; EMPLOYERS; AND FIRST LIGHT INDUSTRIES, INC., MAJOR BASE EMPLOYER; AND IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, RESPONDENTS-RESPONDENTS ON APPEAL.



Appeal from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: W. Jones, Justice

2012 Opinion No. 45

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The decision of the Industrial Commission is affirmed. Costs on appeal are awarded to respondent.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

Appellant, Lincoln F. McNulty, worked as a ski patroller for Sinclair Services Company as a member of the Sun Valley Resort from 2005 to 2010. Once the ski season ended in April of 2009, McNulty filed for unemployment benefits effective April 19, 2009, through November 28, 2009. During those off-season months, McNulty began working part-time at the Sawtooth Club for some extra income. However, McNulty failed to report such employment or any earnings from the Sawtooth Club to the Idaho Department of Labor when he filed for unemployment benefits each week. The Idaho Department of Labor discovered the discrepancy and a claims investigator spoke with McNulty and ultimately issued an Eligibility Determination that McNulty was ineligible for benefits because he willfully made false statements or failed to report material facts in order to obtain benefits.

On July 21, 2010, Appeals Examiner Shelton conducted a telephone hearing and affirmed the Eligibility Determination. McNulty appealed to the Idaho Industrial Commission. On October 21, 2010, the Commission issued its Decision and Order concluding that McNulty willfully failed to report material facts in order to obtain benefits. On December 2, 2010, McNulty appealed to this Court, arguing that his failure to report was not willful, the facts were not material, and that he should be eligible for a waiver of the requirement to repay the unemployment benefits.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

For approximately five years, McNulty worked for Sinclair Services Company as a member of the Sun Valley Resort ski patrol. A typical ski season begins in late November and ends in the middle of April. In the past, McNulty filed for unemployment benefits during the off-season while he was not working as a ski patroller. When the ski season ended on April 18, 2009, McNulty again filed a claim for unemployment benefits effective April 19, 2009, through November 28, 2009. During that same seven month time period, McNulty also began picking up shifts at the Sawtooth Club for supplemental income. McNulty failed to report his employment, or any wages earned from working at the Sawtooth Club, to the Idaho Department of Labor, ("IDOL" or the "Department"), when he filed for unemployment benefits.

Each week that McNulty filed a claim report, the system (either online or over the telephone) asked the claimant "[d]id you work for any employers during the week claimed, including National Guard or Reserve?" Despite his part-time employment at the Sawtooth Club, each week McNulty responded "No." IDOL discovered the discrepancy based on what McNulty reported and what his employers reported. A claims investigator for the Department, Carolynn Peterson, contacted McNulty and asked him to explain the wage discrepancies between what he and his employers reported as earnings. After speaking with McNulty over the phone, Peterson issued an Eligibility Determination finding that McNulty was ineligible for benefits because he willfully made false statements or failed to report material facts in order to obtain benefits. In Peterson's notes, she indicated that McNulty "did not report the work and earnings because he thought he could earn so much and it wouldn't matter. He wasn't sure why he thought this or how much he thought he could earn before he didn't have to report it." Peterson also found that McNulty failed to contact his local office to verify whether he was reporting accurately. IDOL then issued a Determination of Overpayment and a Federal Additional Compensation Determination of Overpayment on June 23, 2010. McNulty filed a request for an appeals hearing, protesting the Department's determination.

On July 21, 2010, a telephone hearing was conducted by Appeals Examiner Joyce Shelton. McNulty participated in the hearing, but was not represented by counsel. During the hearing, McNulty testified that he had been filing for benefits while he was employed by the Sawtooth Club, but that he did not report any of his earnings "[b]ecause they were an insignificant amount of money and they weren't affecting the benefit." Appeals Examiner Shelton affirmed the Eligibility Determination and denied McNulty's request to waive the overpayment requirement. On August 4, 2010, McNulty appealed to the Idaho Industrial Commission (the "Commission").

The Commission conducted a de novo review of the record, including the audio recording of the telephone hearing and the briefs submitted by McNulty and IDOL. On October 21, 2010, the Commission issued its Decision and Order affirming in part and reversing in part the decision of the appeals examiner. The Commission found that McNulty willfully failed to report material facts for the purpose of obtaining unemployment benefits. As a result, the Commission concluded that McNulty was ineligible for benefits during the weeks effective April 26, 2009, through May 16, 2009; May 31, 2009, through July 4, 2009; July 12, 2009, through October 17, 2009; October 25, 2009, through November 28, 2009; and April 25, 2010, through May 1, 2010. However, the Commission reversed the appeals examiner's decision regarding McNulty's ineligibility for benefits during the weeks ending October 24, 2009, and February 13, 2010, because the record did not support a finding that he worked or had earnings during those two weeks. On December 2, 2010, McNulty appealed to this Court to review the Commission's decision.

III. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether the Industrial Commission erred in determining that McNulty willfully failed to report material facts for the purpose of obtaining unemployment benefits?

2. Whether the Industrial Commission erred in concluding that McNulty was not eligible for a waiver from the requirement to repay benefits?

3. Whether McNulty is entitled to attorney's ...


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