DENISE M. EHRLICH, Claimant-Appellant,
DELRAY MAUGHAN, M.D., P.L.L.C., Employer; ST. LUKE'S REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Cost Reimbursement Employer, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondents.
from the Industrial Commission of the State of Idaho.
Chairman Thomas E. Limbaugh, presiding.
order of the Idaho Industrial Commission is affirmed.
Mitchell Law, Meridian, for appellant.
Attorney General's office, Boise, for respondent.
M. Ehrlich (Ehrlich) appeals from an order of the Idaho
Industrial Commission (the Commission) that determined she
was ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Commission
affirmed the determination of the Idaho Department of Labor
(the Department) and the Appeals Examiner that Ehrlich
willfully underreported her weekly earnings. On appeal,
Ehrlich contends that the Commission's finding that she
willfully misrepresented her wages was clearly erroneous. For
the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
losing her job of seventeen years with St. Luke's
Regional Medical Center, Ehrlich applied for unemployment
benefits with the Department on October 21, 2016. She began
submitting weekly certifications of eligibility for benefits
on April 15, 2017.
Department performed a routine audit of Ehrlich's weekly
certification reports. As part of that audit, the Department
requested that Ehrlich's employer, DelRay Maughan, M.D.
(Maughan), verify Ehrlich's weekly earnings. The
Department noticed a discrepancy between the wages Maughan
reported Ehrlich had earned and the wages Ehrlich submitted
in her weekly earnings reports for six of the weeks in which
she sought unemployment benefits. On September 28, 2017, the
Department mailed Ehrlich a letter notifying her of the
discrepancies. Specifically, the Department's letter
noted discrepancies six of the eight weeks between July 15,
2017, July 22, 2017, August 5, 2017, August 19, 2017, August
26, 2017, and September 2, 2017. The letter requested
Ehrlich's explanation for the discrepancies by October
October 10, 2017, Ehrlich called the Department and spoke
with Melisa Huyck (Huyck), a Benefit Payment Control
Supervisor for the Department. During the telephone call,
Ehrlich admitted that she made a mistake and had entered her
hourly wage rather than her total weekly earnings. However,
she requested additional time in order to look into the
discrepancies. Huyck extended the deadline to October 12,
failed to reply by the new deadline. Subsequently, on October
17, 2017, the Department issued an eligibility determination
ruling, finding Ehrlich willfully made false statements in
order to obtain unemployment benefits. As part of the ruling,
the Department: (1) determined Ehrlich would not be eligible
for benefits from October 15, 2017, through October 13, 2018;
(2) sought repayment of the benefits Ehrlich received to
which she was not entitled; and (3) imposed a civil penalty.
October 26, 2017, Ehrlich sent the Department a letter
(October 26 letter) explaining what the mistakes were and why
she had made them. The letter included
various documents including weekly certifications as well as
timesheets submitted to her employer. The Department
construed her letter to be an appeal of the Department's
eligibility determination. As a result, the Department
scheduled a telephonic hearing for November 13, 2017.
November 13, 2017, the parties participated in the telephonic
hearing with the Appeals Examiner to determine whether
Ehrlich willfully made false statements to obtain
unemployment benefits. During the hearing, Huyck, on behalf
of the Department, testified that when Ehrlich first began
filing her weekly claims, she correctly reported her total
wages. However, after those initial weeks, Ehrlich switched
back and forth between correctly reporting her total wages
and incorrectly reporting them.
questioned about the discrepancies, Ehrlich stated that she
did not fully understand what the question was asking. On
several weeks, she "caught herself" reporting her
hourly wage rather than gross earnings and corrected the
error before completing the report. Ehrlich explained that on
the weeks that she reported her earnings correctly, she was
merely guessing correctly. For the weeks she reported them
incorrectly, those were due to ...