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2005-UP-060 - Hendricks v. Belcher Staffing

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS
PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Robert M. Hendricks, Appellant,

v.

Belcher Staffing and South Carolina Employment Security Commission, Respondent.


Appeal From Richland County
 J. Ernest Kinard, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-060
Submitted January 1, 2005 – Filed January 24, 2005


AFFIRMED


Robert M. Hendricks, pro se, of Columbia.

Harold W. Funderburk, Jr., of Columbia, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM:  Robert M. Hendricks appeals the denial of his application for unemployment compensation.  We affirm. [1]

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In March 2002, Hendricks began working for Belcher Staffing, Inc., a temporary employment agency, performing electrical work at various job sites. On May 29, 2002, he left the job to which he had been assigned because he was dissatisfied with the compensation that he was receiving. 

About two weeks later, Hendricks contacted Chester Lee Belcher, the president of Belcher Staffing, about additional work.  Belcher informed Hendricks that there might be work available with Signature Staffing in Charleston and gave him the telephone number.  Although Belcher also admitted to lending Hendricks money for travel expenses to Charleston and receiving reimbursement from Signature Staffing for the loan, he denied having anything directly to do with Hendricks’ employment with Signature Staffing. 

Hendricks worked for Signature Staffing for about a week and a half, when he was terminated from his assignment because his helper accidentally cut a wire too short.  He continued to look for work through Belcher Staffing but without success.  In the summer of 2002, he applied to the Employment Security Commission for unemployment compensation.

In response to Hendricks’ application, Belcher Staffing took the position that he was ineligible for benefits because he “walked off the job” of the most recent assignment that Belcher Staffing gave him and had not returned.  In addition, Hendricks admitted that he did not earn eight times his weekly benefit amount from Signature Staffing, making him ineligible for benefits from that employment.  Hendricks, however, contended that Signature Staffing was either a subsidiary or a branch of Belcher Staffing and that his short tenure with Signature Staffing was therefore a continuation of his work with Belcher Staffing. 

Both the administrative hearing officer and the Commission found (1) Hendricks had not earned sufficient wages from any employer subsequent to his employment with Belcher Staffing, and (2) Hendricks’ eligibility for unemployment compensation was contingent on the reasons for his separation from Belcher Staffing.  Pursuant to South Carolina Code section 41-35-120(1), it was determined that Hendricks voluntarily quit available work without good cause attributable to the employment and was therefore ineligible for benefits.

Hendricks filed a petition for judicial review in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County.  After a hearing in the matter, the circuit court issued an order denying a motion by Hendricks to amend his petition and affirming the decision of the Commission.  This appeal followed.

LAW/ANALYSIS

1.  Hendricks argues his due process rights were violated because the circuit court did not allow him to amend his petition in light of evidence that he alleges he did not receive until the Commission filed its answer.  Similarly, he argues he was improperly deprived of the opportunity to review this evidence at the appropriate time.  The record, however, does not support either of these contentions.

According to Hendricks’ brief, the evidence that he claims was withheld from him consists of documents filed with the Commission stating Belcher Staffing was opposing Hendricks’ application for unemployment benefits because it believed Hendricks had walked off the job.  The transcript of testimony taken by the administrative hearing officer, however, shows that a copy of Belcher Staffing’s statements was shown to Hendricks during the hearing.  Furthermore, in a document filed by Hendricks himself before this hearing, it was clear that Hendricks was aware of the position taken by Belcher Staffing regarding his claim. [2]

2.  Hendricks next alleges the circuit court erred in ruling on the merits of his appeal notwithstanding that the notification he received from the court indicated that the hearing was to address his motion to amend.  We find no reversible error.  During the hearing, Hendricks made no objection to inquiries from the court that were not directly related to his motion to amend and even advanced his own arguments about the merits of the case.  Moreover, he never moved to alter or amend the appealed order on the ground that it addressed issues beyond the motion. [3]

3.  Hendricks further contends he was denied due process because the administrative hearing was held “behind closed doors instead of a public hearing.”  Hendricks, however, made no timely objection on this issue; therefore, even if the setting or procedure of the hearing resulted in a deprivation of due process, this issue is not preserved for appeal. [4]

4.  Hendricks next argues that the statutory limitation on fees that attorneys can charge claimants in administrative hearings for unemployment benefits [5] amounted to a denial of his right to counsel and a deprivation of his due process rights.  The record, however, does not reflect that Hendricks made this argument to either the administrative hearing officer or to the circuit court; therefore, this issue has not been preserved for appeal.

5.  Hendricks attempted to ask about a potential job with a subsequent employer and the number of job assignments he worked on as an electrician.  The hearing officer ruled these questions were irrelevant.  Hendricks argues on appeal that this ruling improperly limited his cross-examination of witnesses.  We find no abuse of discretion.  The central inquiry before the hearing officer was the reason for Hendricks’ separation from his last assignment with his employer.  The number of jobs he had worked on as an electrician or what job referral he might have received was not pertinent to this issue.

6.  Similarly, Hendricks contends the hearing officer improperly limited his cross-examination of Belcher on the issue of whether Belcher Staffing and Signature Staffing were the same corporate entity.  We find no error.  The hearing officer permitted Hendricks to present evidence from the Secretary of State about how both businesses were licensed.  This evidence showed that Belcher Staffing and Signature Staffing were separately incorporated as private employment agencies.  We cannot fault the hearing officer for refusing to entertain additional cross-examination from Hendricks on this issue. [6]

7.  Hendricks next argues that Belcher’s statement that he “walked off the job” was inconsistent with testimony from Belcher during the hearing that Hendricks failed to show up for work and asked to be moved.  He asserts this inconsistency is grounds for reversal.  We disagree.  The alleged variations between Belcher’s statements do not amount to an inconsistency, let alone undermine the Commission’s determination that under South Carolina Code section 42-35-120 Hendricks was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he left his most recent work without good cause. [7]   There is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commission’s finding of fact that Hendricks left his assignment with Belcher Staffing because he was unhappy with his pay and status on the job.  Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting that work was no longer available on this assignment or that the terms and conditions of the assignment had changed during Hendricks’ tenure with Belcher Staffing.

8.  Finally, Hendricks maintains the Commission violated his rights by “[c]onsidering unethical business practices as a waiver to State law and unemployment provisions.”  In his brief however, Hendricks does not address this issue, but instead asserts his work for Signature Staffing was really a continuation of his work for Belcher Staffing.  The Commission, however, found that Signature Staffing was not a subsidiary of or related entity to Belcher Staffing, and there is substantial evidence to support this finding.  The evidence Hendricks presented showed only that Signature Staffing was located in the same office space used by Belcher Staffing when the latter entity operated a branch in North Charleston and that the incorporators and operators of Signature Staffing had previously worked for Belcher Staffing.  The Secretary of State was notified that, as of February 1, 2002, before Hendricks began working for Belcher Staffing, that entity had ceased operating its office in North Charleston.  In addition, Belcher testified that the two businesses were totally separate entities and that he helped Hendricks obtain work with Signature Staffing solely to accommodate Hendricks and Signature Staffing.  Finally, the documents from the Secretary of State confirm that different individuals separately incorporated the two entities, that the businesses were separately licensed as employment agencies, and that they were not active in the Charleston area at the same time.

AFFIRMED.

HEARN, C.J., and GOOLSBY and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.


[1]   We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.

[2]   Hendricks wrote the following regarding his reason for quitting:  “Reason given by my employer was due to me walking off the job.  I disagree with the reason.  I left the job because I was doing the work as an electricians and was being pay has a electrician helper.  I told my employer about this and he did nothing.”

[3]   See Noisette v. Ismail, 304 S.C. 56, 58, 403 S.E.2d 122, 124 (1991) (holding that, when the trial court does not explicitly rule on a question and the appellant fails to move under Rule 59(e), SCRCP, to amend or alter the judgment on that ground, the issue is not properly before the court of appeals).

[4]   See Hoffman v. Powell, 298 S.C. 338, 380 S.E.2d 821 (1989) (stating a constitutional claim must be raised and ruled on to be preserved for appellate review).

[5]   See S.C. Code Ann. § 41-39-30 (1986) (allowing the Employment Security Commission to limit fees charged by attorneys from claimants for representation in proceedings before the Commission).

[6]   See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-330(1) (1985) (stating that in contested cases “unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded”).

[7]   See id. § 42-35-120(1) (1986) (“Any insured worker is ineligible for benefits  . . . [i]f the Commission finds that he has left voluntarily, without good cause, his most recent work . . . .”); Stone Mfg. Co. v. S.C. Employment Sec. Comm’n, 219 S.C. 239, 247, 64 S.E.2d 644, 647 (1951) (“”[T]he words ‘good cause’ . . . contemplate, ordinarily at least, a cause attributable to or connected with claimant’s employment.”).