[As amended by order of the Supreme Court February 4, 1993.]
Shoreline Community College District 7 (Shoreline) seeks review of the Court of Appeals opinion affirming the administrative determination that Richard
Shoreline employed Richard Pelto as a part-time, salaried English instructor in 1986. Pelto taught an English 102 class during the winter and spring 1986 academic quarters. In the fall 1986 quarter, he taught both English 101 and English 102. Pelto thus taught a total of four introductory college English classes at Shoreline in 1986. During this time, neither Shoreline nor Pelto kept records of the number of hours Pelto worked in fulfilling his teaching duties to Shoreline. Pelto did not have any other employment in 1986.
Pelto's employment contract with Shoreline expired at the end of each academic quarter. Shoreline renewed Pelto's contract at the end of the winter and spring quarters, but not at the end of the fall quarter. Pelto was thus not rehired in 1987. He applied for unemployment compensation benefits in April 1987.
An individual must work at least 680 hours during his or her "base year" in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. RCW 50.04.030. For the purposes of this case, Pelto's "base year" is the 1986 calendar year. Employers are required to make quarterly reports to the Employment Security Department (Department) regarding the number of hours worked by each of their employees. RCW 50.12.070; WAC 192-16-002. Shoreline reported to the Department that Pelto had worked 513 hours during 1986, or 167 hours less than the minimum number required for Pelto to qualify for unemployment compensation. As a result, the Department initially denied Pelto's application for benefits.
Pelto appealed this denial of benefits. On June 15, 1987, an administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on whether Shoreline had correctly reported Pelto's hours to the Department. Pelto testified at this hearing that he worked regular hours while he was teaching, and that during the winter and spring quarters, he had worked a minimum of 4 hours per day for a total of 440 hours. He stated that he had worked a minimum of 6 hours per day for a
Pelto testified at the hearing that he would arrive on campus at least 1 hour before class to review teaching materials and prepare for class. Each class he taught carried 5 credit hours, and met 1 hour per day, 5 times per week during the academic quarter. He testified that he maintained regular office hours to give students additional help with their course work, as well as feedback on their progress. As proof of these hours, Pelto placed into the record copies of evaluations made by his students regarding Pelto's teaching performance. These evaluations indicate that Pelto's students generally had a high level of satisfaction with Pelto's teaching performance, and in particular with Pelto's availability when they needed additional help with their assignments outside of the classroom.
As additional proof of his hours, Pelto placed in the record copies of syllabi for his English 101 and English 102 classes. These documents reflect that English 101 and English 102 are introductory English courses designed to develop and improve the basic writing skills of students. In order to achieve this purpose, students in these classes were given a number of writing assignments of varying complexity, including assignments to rewrite or revise their work. Pelto corrected and graded these assignments. Pelto also gave his students reading assignments for the purposes of classroom discussion, various written exercises from assigned texts, and a midterm and final exam.
In addition to the 770 hours he worked in teaching his students, Pelto testified that he also spent approximately 30 hours teaching himself to use a WordPerfect software program, as this program was to be used in teaching English during the winter 1987 academic quarter. He also spent about 10 hours attending faculty meetings at which his
Shoreline's personnel director, Diann Youngquist, represented Shoreline at the hearing. Youngquist did not challenge any of Pelto's testimony or supporting documentation regarding the number of hours he had worked in fulfilling his contractual teaching duties to Shoreline. She argued instead that Shoreline had properly reported Pelto's hours based on a formula contained in a collective bargaining agreement between the college and the Shoreline Community College Federation of Teachers. The collective bargaining agreement has not been placed in the record. However, Youngquist established through her testimony that she had personally negotiated the formula with the union several years prior to the time of the hearing.
Youngquist testified that the formula for determining a part-time, salaried instructor's reportable hours is as follows: 35 (hours per week) x 11 (weeks in a quarter) x (percentage of a full-time instructor's credit hours taught) = number of hours reported to the Department. For the purposes of the formula, a full-time instructor was estimated as working 35 hours per week for 11 weeks during the academic quarter. The record reflects that this 35 hours per week figure does not represent any actual weekly expectation for full-time faculty members. The figure was chosen in recognition of the fact that part-time faculty are not expected to participate in "governance and other divisional duties" expected of full-time faculty members. A full-time teaching load in the English Department is considered to be 15 credit hours. Each 5 credit hour class Pelto taught was thus considered to be one-third or 33 percent of a full-time load. Shoreline applied this formula to Pelto, determined that Pelto worked 513 reportable hours, and accordingly reported this figure to the Department.
The number of hours derived through this formula does not reflect the actual number of hours any part-time, salaried
Some teaching assignments will thus require more hours to complete than others. Application of the formula in any given case may accordingly result in either underreporting or overreporting to the Department the number of hours an instructor actually worked in completing his or her teaching assignment.
The record also indicates that the formula was not established to delineate or limit the number of hours a part-time, salaried instructor is required or expected to work in fulfillment of his or her contractual teaching duties. Youngquist testified that Shoreline does not place expectations on the number of hours a part-time instructor will spend in performing such activities as preparing for class, correcting assignments, and grading exams. The formula thus places limitations on the number of hours which are reported to the Department, but no limitation on the number of hours an instructor is actually required or expected to work in completing his or her particular teaching assignment.
The ALJ affirmed the denial of benefits. The ALJ concluded that the formula was an appropriate method for reporting Pelto's hours regardless of the number of hours Pelto may have actually worked in fulfillment of his contractual teaching duties.
Pelto petitioned the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department for review of the ALJ's ruling. The Commissioner reviewed the record and reversed the ALJ's ruling. The Commissioner determined that Pelto qualified for benefits because the record supported Pelto's contention that he had worked at least 770 hours in fulfilling his contractual teaching duties to Shoreline. The Commissioner noted in his
Shoreline petitioned the Superior Court for Thurston County for review of the Commissioner's ruling. The Superior Court reviewed the record and affirmed the Commissioner's ruling. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court. This court granted Shoreline's petition for review of the Court of Appeals determination.
We begin by determining the appropriate standard of review. The Employment Security Act (Act) allows for judicial review of the Commissioner's decision "only in accordance with the procedural requirements of RCW 34.04.130." Former RCW 50.32.120; Macey v. Department of Empl. Sec., 110 Wn.2d 308, 312, 752 P.2d 372 (1988). The Legislature amended RCW 34.04.130, and the statute is now recodified at RCW 34.05.570. Laws of 1988, ch. 288, §§ 516, 706; Laws of 1989, ch. 175, § 27. Because this amendment did not become effective until July 1, 1989, former RCW 34.04.130 applies to this case.
Under the Employment Security Act, an individual cannot qualify for unemployment compensation unless:
RCW 50.04.030. The respondent, the Employment Security Department, argues that the Commissioner properly considered the actual number of hours Pelto worked in determining Pelto's eligibility for benefits under the Act. In support of this argument, the Department cites RCW 50.40.010 of the Act. This statute provides that:
RCW 50.40.010. The Department argues that the right to receive unemployment benefits is a statutory right which, as a matter of public policy, may not be waived. The respondent maintains that the application of the formula in this case would result in a waiver of benefits contrary to RCW 50.40.010 because Pelto has in fact met the Act's "base year" hours requirement.
Shoreline argues that the formula precludes the Department from considering the actual number of hours Pelto worked. Shoreline conceded that in some cases, however, application of the formula may result in underreporting the number of hours an instructor works due to the nature of that instructor's teaching assignment. Also, the record reflects that the formula is not a method for determining or limiting the number of hours Pelto was required or expected to work in fulfillment of his teaching duties, and that no such limitation currently exists. In light of these factors, application of the formula could therefore result in a relinquishment or waiver of benefits for those instructors like Pelto who are reported to have worked fewer than 680 hours, but who did in fact work at least 680 hours due to the demands of their particular teaching assignments.
Shoreline maintains that under the facts of this case, however, no waiver of any right has occurred. Shoreline contends that the record does not support the Commissioner's determination that Pelto worked a sufficient number of hours to qualify for benefits, and therefore application of the formula in this case does not result in a waiver of any right. In support of this assertion, Shoreline argues that three of the activities Pelto engaged in were not directly
Shoreline thus argues that this court should review and reverse the Commissioner's determination that Pelto worked at least 770 hours in fulfillment of his contractual duties. In its briefing before the Superior Court in this case, however, Shoreline stated that the Commissioner's findings were "not in serious dispute" and that the issue before that court was "essentially a question of law or an application of the law to undisputed facts." Clerk's Papers, at 10.
Pelto has thus worked a sufficient number of hours to meet the Act's "base year" hours requirement. We note that this hours requirement is only one of the requirements an individual must meet in order to qualify for benefits. The
When construing a statute, the court must ascertain and give effect to the Legislature's intent. Cowiche Canyon Conservancy v. Bosley, 118 Wn.2d 801, 813, 828 P.2d 549 (1992). The Legislature has declared that:
RCW 50.01.010. Pursuant to these concerns, the Legislature mandated that the Employment Security Act be "liberally construed for the purpose of reducing involuntary unemployment and the suffering caused thereby to the minimum." RCW 50.01.010; see Johnson v. Department of Empl. Sec., 112 Wn.2d 172, 179, 769 P.2d 305 (1989).
RCW 50.40.010 prevents individuals from entering agreements which would waive their right to receive unemployment benefits. The Act's purpose would be frustrated if unemployed people who met the statutory requirements for receiving benefits were deprived of benefits due to such agreements. The Act's purpose would be equally frustrated if individuals could enter into such agreements through the collective bargaining process. These individuals would also be denied unemployment compensation even though they met all of the statutory requirements for receiving such compensation. The mandate of liberal construction requires that courts view with caution any construction that would narrow the coverage of the unemployment compensation laws. Fifth Dist. Republican Comm. v. Employment Sec. Comm'n, 19 Mich.App. 449, 452-53, 172 N.W.2d 825 (1969), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 866 (1970). We accordingly construe RCW 50.40.010 as precluding employers from accepting "any agreement" from an individual to waive his or her right to unemployment compensation, including agreements negotiated through the collective bargaining process. This construction effectuates the Act's purpose of insuring compensation to all qualified individuals.
Persuasive authority from other jurisdictions supports our interpretation. Many states have enacted similar statutory prohibitions against waivers of unemployment benefits. Like RCW 50.40.010, the language contained in many of these statutes prohibits waivers "by an individual" or "by an employee". The courts which have addressed this question have
In Buffelen, an employer shut down a plant for 2 weeks. A collective bargaining agreement provided that only employees who had been with the company for 1 year or more qualified for paid vacations during this plant shutdown. Employees who did not qualify for vacation pay during this shutdown filed for unemployment compensation. The court held that pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, these employees could not receive unemployment compensation because their unemployment during the 2-week period was "voluntary" within the meaning of the Act. Buffelen, at 210-11.
Three years after the court's holding in Buffelen, the Legislature amended the Employment Security Act. Pursuant to this amendment, RCW 50.20.115 now provides, in part, that:
(Italics ours.) The Legislature is presumed to be familiar with court interpretations of statutes. State v. Fenter, 89 Wn.2d 57, 62, 569 P.2d 67 (1977). In this amendment, the Legislature disapproved of the court's holding in Buffelen that a collective bargaining agreement allowing for a plant shutdown could control the interpretation of what constitutes "voluntary" unemployment under the Act. The amendment indicates that:
1A N. Singer, Statutory Construction § 22.30 (4th ed. 1985). The court's reasoning in Buffelen did not correspond with
We note that provisions in a collective bargaining agreement can, in a proper case, control over certain conflicting statutory provisions. See Rose v. Erickson, 106 Wn.2d 420, 421, 721 P.2d 969 (1986). It is well settled that a union may lawfully waive certain statutory rights of represented employees in a collective bargaining agreement. Metropolitan Edison Co. v. NLRB, 460 U.S. 693, 705, 75 L.Ed.2d 387, 103 S.Ct. 1467 (1983). The right of public employees to bargain collectively is an important right protected by statute. See RCW 41.56.040. Pursuant to such considerations, the New York court in Antinore v. State, 49 A.D.2d 6, 371 N.Y.S.2d 213 (1975), aff'd, 40 N.Y.2d 921, 358 N.E.2d 268, 389 N.Y.S.2d 576 (1976) held that an individual public employee who disagrees with a valid provision of a collective bargaining agreement is nonetheless bound by the agreement. Antinore, at 10-11.
The Commissioner correctly determined that the formula did not preclude the Department from making a factual determination regarding the number of hours Pelto worked in fulfilling his contractual teaching duties. The Commissioner's ruling that Pelto was eligible to receive unemployment benefits is not affected by any error of law. Pelto is therefore entitled to receive these benefits. The Court of Appeals is affirmed.
DORE, C.J., and UTTER, SMITH, and GUY, JJ., concur.
DURHAM, J. (dissenting)
The resolution of this case rests on the interpretation of the following provision of the Employment Security Act:
RCW 50.40.010. The majority accepts the Employment Security Department's (Department) argument that Mr. Pelto's right to benefits has been waived by operation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). However, this analysis fails to recognize that the CBA did not negate any right to benefits; it merely set forth the method for computing and recording the hours worked. Under RCW 50.04.030, the right to unemployment benefits can only arise when the employee has at least 680 hours in the base year reported to the Department. Pursuant to the CBA, Pelto was shown to have worked only 513 hours. Because Pelto failed to meet the statutory requirements for compensation, he at no time had any right to waive.
Even were the majority correct in its assumption that this statute applies to CBAs, it still has not been shown that any waiver of benefits actually occurred. The formula used by Shoreline standardized the reporting of part-time employees' hours, and pursuant to this formula, Pelto never reached the statutory minimum for receiving benefits. Support for this conclusion is found in the regulations of the Department itself. The regulations contemplate that employers and employees will use a standard method for computing regular hours. WAC 192-16-002(4) defines "hours worked" in part as follows:
Moreover, the formula is equitable in its calculation of the hours of part-time employees. It was intended to represent not only the hours to be reported, but also the hours required to complete the job. Other colleges report hours based solely on classroom hours, or allow 1 hour of preparation time for each hour in the classroom. Shoreline's formula recognizes that a faculty member works outside of the classroom, but limits the number of hours expected of its part-time faculty. Pelto appears to have spent three times as much time preparing for class and meeting with students as he did actually teaching. While such diligence may be commendable, the college has a right to expect the provisions of its CBA to control the actual hours reported.
To now disregard provisions in a CBA which were freely bargained for also undermines the policies set forth in RCW 28B.52 and the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Act, RCW 41.56. The current version of RCW 28B.52 states that one of the purposes of the chapter is to establish "orderly procedures governing the relationship between the employees and their employers which procedures are designed to meet the special requirements and needs of public employment in higher education." RCW 28B.52.010. The Legislature has commanded that the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Act be "liberally construed", RCW 41.56.905, and
Even were a conflict to exist, we have previously found that a validly negotiated CBA can be given effect in the face of a conflicting statute. In Rose v. Erickson, 106 Wn.2d 420, 421, 721 P.2d 969 (1986), we held that the provisions of a CBA regarding grievance procedures, including arbitration, were paramount to the procedures set forth in the civil service statute. We recognized there that an actual conflict existed between RCW 41.14, describing the proper grievance procedures for civil service employees, and RCW 41.56, granting collective bargaining rights to public employees. Rose, at 424. Nevertheless, we held that the terms of the CBA controlled.
This reasoning is supported in other jurisdictions as well. For instance, a New York court interpreting an arbitration clause similar to that in Rose held that the terms of the CBA controlled. Antinore v. State, 49 A.D.2d 6, 371 N.Y.S.2d 213 (1975), aff'd, 40 N.Y.2d 921 (1976). Even when an individual public employee disagrees with certain provisions, a valid
Antinore, at 10-11. An Alaska court found that even constitutional rights of public employees could be waived in the CBA. Storrs v. Municipality of Anchorage, 721 P.2d 1146, 1150 (Alaska 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1032 (1987).
Common sense is in accord with case law. If the CBA is to have any meaning at all, it must be given effect over the objections of a single employee. The statute itself explicitly applies only to agreements entered into by individuals. The formula for "hours-allowed" was contained in a duly executed agreement; it was freely negotiated and is binding on all employees. The collective bargaining process would be weakened if individual employees could circumvent any resulting agreement. The "hours-allowed" formula did not waive any rights to unemployment compensation. It merely defined an equitable and unintrusive method of recording and reporting the hours worked by part-time staff to the Department.
I would therefore reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the decision of the Administrative Law Judge.
BRACHTENBACH, DOLLIVER, and ANDERSEN, JJ., concur with DURHAM, J.