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Dolores v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 3, 2018

EUGENIO DOLORES, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DIVISION; RENEE OLSON, IN HER CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DIVISION; AND KATIE JOHNSON, IN HER CAPACITY AS CHAIRPERSON OF THE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DIVISION BOARD OF REVIEW, Respondents.

          Appeal from an order denying a petition for judicial review in an action for unemployment benefits. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Valerie Adair, Judge.

          Affirmed. Nevada Legal Services, Inc., and Dawn R. Miller, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

          Laurie L. Trotter, Senior Legal Counsel, Nevada Employment Security Division, Carson City, for Respondents.

         BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

          OPINION

          GIBBONS, J.

         In this appeal, we consider whether submitting a resignation when faced with a resign-or-be-fired option is a voluntary resignation under NRS 612.380, thereby disqualifying an individual from unemployment benefits. We hold that where the record shows that the appellant's decision to resign was freely given and stemming from his own choice, such a resignation is voluntary pursuant to NRS 612.380- Accordingly, we affirm the district court's decision to deny judicial review.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Appellant Eugenio Dolores filed an appeal after respondent, the Employment Security Division (ESD), denied his claim for unemployment benefits under NRS 612.380. Dolores worked at the airport as a ground agent for Southwest Airlines for over seven years. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires airport employees to wear a Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge, which must be renewed every year. In July 2015, TSA altered its SIDA badge policy and, under this new policy, TSA improperly confiscated Dolores's badge based on a misunderstanding of a previous criminal conviction. Dolores contested this revocation, and his employer, Southwest Airlines, granted him ten days' leave to resolve the matter. When this time lapsed and Dolores had not been reissued a SIDA badge, Southwest informed Dolores that he could either resign or he would be fired. Dolores subsequently submitted a letter of resignation.

         Dolores proceeded to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits with ESD. An ESD claims adjudicator denied Dolores's claim based on NRS 612.380, stating that Dolores resigned from his "employment in anticipation of being discharged or laid off' and therefore voluntarily resigned. Dolores appealed the decision. An administrative referee ultimately denied the claim, finding that Dolores voluntarily resigned under NRS 612.380. Dolores appealed the referee's decision to the Board of Review, which affirmed the referee's decision. Dolores then filed a petition for judicial review in district court, which was denied. Dolores now appeals to this court.

         DISCUSSION

         Dolores argues that pursuant to NRS 612.380, his resignation was not voluntary and was for good cause because he was told he could resign or be fired. We disagree.

         Dolores voluntarily resigned

         First, we address whether Dolores voluntarily resigned under NRS 612.380. "This court reviews questions of statutory construction and the district court's legal conclusions de novo. In interpreting a statute, this court will look to the plain language of its text and construe the statute according to its fair meaning and so as not to produce unreasonable results." J. Cox Constr. Co., LLC v. CH2Invs., LLC, 129 Nev. 139, 142, 296 P.3d 1202, 1203 (2013) (internal citations omitted). Nevada has not yet defined "voluntary" for purposes of unemployment benefits; however, other jurisdictions have defined it as "a decision to quit that is freely given and proceeding from one's own choice or full consent." 76 Am. Jur. 2d Unemployment Compensation § 104 (2016) (citing Thompson v. Kentucky Unemployment Ins. Comm'n, 85 S.W.3d 621 (Ky. Ct. App. 2002), and Ward v. Acoustiseal, Inc., 129 S.W.3d 392 (Mo.Ct.App. 2004)). Applying that definition to Dolores's case, the question here is whether Dolores's decision to resign was freely given despite the fact that he was given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum.

         Because Nevada has not yet addressed unemployment benefits in the "resign-or-be-fired" context, we look to how other jurisdictions have addressed the issue. In Thomas v. District of Columbia Department of Labor, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that in a quit-or-be-fired situation, "it is not proper to take such a quit, tendered in lieu of termination, out of its context and regard it as dispositive on the issue of voluntariness for unemployment benefits determination purposes." 409 A.2d 164, 170 (D.C. 1979) (acknowledging the benefits both employees and employers gain from such an agreement). The Thomas court concluded that a claimant who was previously threatened with termination, instructed to train her replacement ...


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