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Justices rule former Verizon employee will not receive unemployment

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A former Verizon employee who left her job because she could not get child care after the company switched her shift from day to evening will not receive unemployment benefits, state Supreme Court justices recently ruled.

According to court documents, Verizon Services offered Loretta K. Epling the choice between two positions. She could take a job as a business consultant or another as a residential consultant.

Epling chose to work in the business consultant because the office was open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it would give her the chance to pick up her children from day care.

When Frontier purchased Verizon, her shift changed. In March 2010, court documents state, her employer told her she would work from noon to 8 p.m. or from 1-9 p.m.

"The present case involves an employee who was clearly informed of the potential for alterations in working hours and who was provided with documents explaining that potential during the original employment process," the state Supreme Court opinion states. "Thus, the employer specified the parameters of employment and the potential for change even before employment began."

"Although this employee was initially hired into a position which permitted her to leave work by 5 p.m., the record is clear that she was also informed, through two separate written documents, that her working hours, could be altered at any time," the opinion continued.

Epling later left her job and filed for unemployment with WorkForce West Virginia. Her request was granted, as the WorkForce deputy concluded she left work voluntarily with good cause involving fault in the part of the employer.

Verizon argued her union signed a collective bargaining agreement and the company also sent her numerous documents informing that her hours could change.

Thus, the company appealed, but an administrative law judge affirmed the deputy's decision. Verizon requested a review by the Board of Review.

The board reversed the decision, ruling Epling couldn't receive benefits because she didn't have good cause involving the fault of the employer.

Epling appealed the board's decision to Kanawha County Circuit Court. The lower court ruled that changing her hours "constituted a substantial and material change in the terms or conditions of her employment that was made unilaterally by the employer."

"Because I find that Ms. Epling left her job with good cause involving fault on the part of the employer, I need not address the petitioner's argument that she did not leave her employment voluntarily," Kanawha County Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib's order read.

Verizon appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. 

West Virginia Supreme Court justices determined in their Feb. 27 opinion that Epling did not demonstrate fault on the part of the employer. Justices also ruled that Epling terminated her employment "voluntarily without good cause involving fault on the part of the employer."

The state's highest court reversed the Kanawha County Circuit Court's ruling and remanded the decision for reinstatement of the Board of Review's decision.

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