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Martin v. Division of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

January 20, 2015

JAMES R. MARTIN, Appellant,
v.
DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondent

LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION.

Ellen Suni, Kansas City, MO Counsel for Appellant.

Sara Harrison, Jefferson City, MO Counsel for Respondent.

Before Division Four: Alok Ahuja, C.J. Presiding, James Edward Welsh, J., and Tracey Mason-White, Sp.J. James Welsh, Judge, writes for the majority. Tracey Mason-White, Special Judge, concurs. Alok Ahuja, Chief Judge, writes a dissent.

OPINION

Page 415

James Edward Welsh, Judge.

James R. Martin appeals from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's determination that he is ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his employment with Swift Transportation of Arizona without good cause attributable to his work or his employer. Martin contends that the record establishes

Page 416

that he had good cause for quitting his job and that the factual findings of the Commission are not supported by substantial and competent evidence. He also asserts that the Commission erred in denying unemployment compensation to him on the basis that he failed to provide expert testimony establishing that his headaches and eye strain were the result of the LED lights installed at his workplace. We affirm.

Martin worked for Swift Transportation as a diesel mechanic for approximately ten years. On July 13, 2013, Martin submitted his letter of resignation. In his letter of resignation, Martin stated that his decision to resign was " a direct result of the new extreme lighting recently installed in the shop work area." According to Martin, " the intense lighting cause[d him] to have headaches, overall eye fatigue, and adversely affect[ed his] driving at night." Martin's last day of work was July 27, 2013.

On July 31, 2013, Martin applied for unemployment benefits. On August 23, 2013, a deputy for the Missouri Division of Employment Security determined that Martin was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his employment because he did not " take his concerns regarding the lighting to the highest authority prior to quitting." Martin appealed this determination to the division's appeals tribunal, and the appeals tribunal held a hearing.

The evidence at the hearing established that in mid-April, 2013, Swift Transportation had a new LED lighting system installed in the shop where Martin worked as a diesel mechanic. On April 19, 2013, Martin spoke to his immediate supervisor, Troy Binder, about the lights being too bright. On April 20, 2013, Martin told Binder that the lights were " just blinding" and were like looking into the sun. According to Martin, he began suffering from headaches and eye strain after Swift Transportation installed the new lighting system. On April 22, 2013, Binder issued Martin and another employee shaded safety glasses to wear while working under the lights. Before leaving work on April 22, Martin left Binder a note that said:

These sun shades don't fit over my eye glasses properly--they rub my glass lens. Ear pieces also sit on top of my ears.
I am only asking for a reasonable accommodation with the extremely bright lights that we encounter here at night.
I don't feel issuing sun shades is the only solution.
If this is all you can do, please call me.

On April 23, 2013, Martin took FMLA leave to be with his sick mother in Texas. While in Texas, Martin telephoned Binder, and Binder told him that he was working on the lighting issue. Martin did not return to work until July 8, 2013. Upon his return to work, Binder told him that there was not anything he could do about the lights. Binder said that he had talked to the lighting engineers and that the engineers said that the lighting was adequate for " low bay lighting" and was " in spec." Martin suggested that Binder install one more wire to the switch box, which would allow half of the lights to be turned off. Binder told Martin that he did not know anything about the lights and did not know whether or not that could be done. Binder took no further action.

According to Martin, because his headaches and eye fatigue continued and because Swift Transportation made no changes to the lighting system, Martin tendered his two week notice on July 16, 2013, saying that he intended to resign. Martin did not submit any medical documentation

Page 417

to Swift Transportation. Martin's last day of work was July 27, 2013.

Martin admitted at the hearing that he had vision insurance and that he did not see an eye doctor about his eye issues and headaches. He also acknowledged that he never contacted OSHA about the lighting situation at Swift Transportation and never engaged a lighting specialist to determine if there was a problem with the lighting system. Martin said that he did not take his complaints beyond his immediate supervisor because he was always told to take his problems directly to his supervisor.

The appeals tribunal affirmed the deputy's decision. The appeals tribunal found that Martin was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he " voluntarily left without an adequate good faith effort to resolve all concerns" and because " no expert evidence showed any medical issue existed and was connected to work." The appeals tribunal concluded that Martin did not meet his burden " to prove good cause to voluntarily leave attributable to the work or employer." Martin appealed this decision to the Commission. The Commission affirmed the appeals ...


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