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Mandacina v. Harrah's of North Kansas City and Division of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

February 28, 2017

LUCILLE MANDACINA, Appellant,
v.
HARRAH'S OF NORTH KANSAS CITY AND DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondents.

         Appeal from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

          Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge Presiding, Thomas H. Newton, and Lisa White Hardwick, JJ.

          Thomas H. Newton, Judge

         Ms. Lucille Mandacina appeals an order of the Labor & Industrial Relations Commission affirming an appeals tribunal ruling denying her unemployment compensation benefits because she had voluntarily left work without good cause attributable to the work or the employer. Ms. Mandacina challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding that she voluntarily quit, and she argues that the evidence shows that she had good cause to "quit" her position as a casino table games dealer. We affirm.

         Ms. Mandacina began her employment with Harrah's North Kansas City in August 2010, working as a table games dealer. The position required a valid Missouri gaming license. After Ms. Mandacina placed herself on the state's disassociated person's list, which forbids problem gamblers from going onto a casino floor other than for work, she used an ATM machine on the casino floor. She was cited for trespassing in 2012 for this conduct and fought the revocation of her gaming license, but ultimately failed. Ms. Mandacina learned in early November 2015 from her employer that her license had been revoked and she could no longer be employed as a casino dealer. Because she was concerned about her family's health-care coverage and was willing to work at a lower-paying position, Ms. Mandacina agreed to a thirty-day reassignment status that would allow her to continue her health-insurance benefit if she secured other available employment at Harrah's within that period.

         The transcript is somewhat unclear as to whether Harrah's failed to "reach out" to Ms. Mandacina as promised to inform her about any job openings or whether she failed to fulfill her own responsibility to apply for jobs posted on the company's website. Regardless, Ms. Mandacina did not apply for any other position at Harrah's. When Ms. Mandacina learned that she could not apply for food stamps, collect unemployment compensation, or access her 401(k) savings if she remained on reassignment status until it was scheduled to conclude in mid-December, she signed a resignation letter on December 2, 2015. Ms. Mandacina knew that it was her responsibility to apply for other work at Harrah's.[1] According to the employer, a housekeeping position was available and posted on its website during Ms. Mandacina's reassignment period.

         A deputy denied her application for unemployment benefits, and a Commission appeals tribunal affirmed, finding that Ms. Mandacina voluntarily separated from her employment when she signed the resignation letter on December 2, 2015, and that she did not have good cause attributable to the work or her employer to quit.[2] The Commission affirmed, and Ms. Mandacina filed this appeal.

         Legal Analysis

         When reviewing a Commission decision, we must affirm unless "the commission acted without or in excess of its powers, " "the decision was procured by fraud, " "the facts found by the commission do not support the award, " or "there was no sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the award." § 288.210 (1)-(4).[3] As to the sufficiency of the evidence, which is at issue here, and our authority when a question of law is implicated, we apply the following standard of review:

A court must examine the whole record to determine if it contains sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support the award, i.e., whether the award is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. An award that is contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence is, in context, not supported by competent and substantial evidence.
Nothing requires this Court to review the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commission's decision. The whole record is considered to determine if there is sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support the Commission's award. A reviewing court considers whether the Commission could have reasonably made its findings, and reached its result, upon consideration of all the evidence before it.
This Court defers to the Commission's factual findings and recognizes that it is the Commission's function to determine credibility of witnesses. This Court may not substitute its judgment on the evidence, and when the evidence before an administrative body would warrant either of two opposed findings, the reviewing court is bound by the administrative determination, and it is irrelevant that there is supportive evidence for the contrary finding.
We do not defer to the Commission's conclusions of law or its application of the law to the facts. Additionally, where, as here the Commission adopts the decision of the Appeals Tribunal, we consider the Tribunal's decision ...

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