Appeal from Employment Security Board Michael Harrington,
R. Lillie, Pro Se, Bennington, Plaintiff-Appellant.
Anderson, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellee.
PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Skoglund, Robinson, Eaton and Carroll,
1. Jason Lillie appeals the Employment Security Board's
denial of his claim for unemployment benefits. We affirm.
2. In July 2014, Lillie was an employee of Amerigas Propane,
Inc. and suffered an injury while working. He reported the
injury to his employer, which in turn reported it to its
worker's compensation insurer. He sought medical
attention for his injury shortly after being hurt but was
able to continue working for several weeks, most of it on
modified or light duty. The record is unclear whether the
compensation insurer paid for the medical treatment
initially. In October, Amerigas fired Lillie for an alleged
safety violation. A few days later, Lillie's doctor
indicated he was medically unable to work. Lillie expressed
concern that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits
because he was not able to work but was told he must apply in
order to receive economic benefits.
3. Lillie then sought workers' compensation temporary
disability benefits, which were initially denied by the
insurer. Without any income or compensation disability
benefits for several weeks, Lillie sought economic assistance
from the Vermont Economic Services Division of the Department
for Children and Families. Lillie was told by Economic
Services that in order to be eligible for economic assistance
he would have to file for unemployment benefits, even if he
felt he would not qualify for them.
4. With his workers' compensation claim still in dispute,
and based upon the information he had received from Economic
Services, Lillie filed a claim for unemployment benefits with
the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Department of
Labor on December 1, 2014. The filing of a claim for benefits
triggers the establishment of a benefit year. 21 V.S.A.
§ 1338(d)(1)(C). The claim also triggers a determination
of whether the claimant is monetarily eligible for benefits
for the benefit year using one of four statutory methods to
establish a base period, which we recently explained in
Skidmore v. Department of Labor, 2017 VT 65, ¶
10, ___ Vt. ___, 172 A.3d 1210. Unless a claimant has earned
sufficient wages during a "base period," using one
of the statutory methods to calculate it, the claimant is not
monetarily eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
5. Applying the statutory formula to calculate the base
period as set forth in 21 V.S.A. § 1301(17)(B) and using
the wages Lillie had earned at Amerigas between July 1, 2013
and the end of June 2014, the Unemployment Division found him
to be monetarily eligible for unemployment benefits when he
sought them in December 2014. Monetary eligibility is merely
the first step in determining whether a claimant is entitled
to unemployment benefits. If a claimant satisfies the
monetary eligibility criteria, there are other requirements
that must be met as conditions to the receipt of unemployment
benefits. These are set forth in 21 V.S.A. § 1343.
6. One of the conditions in 21 V.S.A. § 1343 is a
requirement that a claimant be able to work and available for
work in order to receive unemployment benefits. 21 V.S.A.
§ 1343(a)(3). While he had the necessary base period
wages to make him monetarily eligible for benefits, Lillie
was not able to work and available for work, as required by
21 V.S.A. § 1343(a)(3), because he was medically unable
to work. He was, therefore, denied unemployment compensation
on that basis. He continued to make weekly claims for
unemployment benefits for six weeks after December 2014 while
his workers' compensation benefits were in dispute. Each
claim was denied because he was not able and available to
7. In March 2015, Lillie's workers' compensation
claim was accepted and temporary disability benefits were
paid to him; the payments were retroactive to the time he
left work in October 2014. Lillie ceased making claims for
unemployment benefits and continued to receive temporary
total disability benefits until he reached a medical end
result in early 2017. At the end of his temporary total
disability, and because he was then able and available to
work, Lillie filed another claim for unemployment benefits on
May 18, 2017.
8. When a worker reaches the end of temporary total
workers' compensation benefits and seeks unemployment
benefits, the Unemployment Insurance Division usually
determines his or her monetary eligibility for unemployment
benefits using "Method Four" pursuant to 21 V.S.A.
§ 1343(d), which allows eligibility for unemployment
benefits to be calculated based on the employee's wages
earned in the period prior to leaving employment due to
injury. Here, Method Four could not be used because
Lillie's pre-disability wages had already been used to
meet his monetary eligibility requirement for the
unsuccessful unemployment claims Lillie had filed beginning
in December 2014, which had established a benefit year for
those claims even though he did not get any unemployment
benefits at that time for other reasons. Id. §
1301(16)(A). As a result, Lillie was required by statute to
earn four times his previously weekly benefit subsequent to
his most recent benefit year in order to be monetarily
eligible for benefits in a new benefit year. Id.
§ 1338(d)(1)(C). Accordingly, Lillie was found to be
monetarily ineligible for benefits because he did not earn
any wages subsequent to the prior benefit year he had
established in 2014. Lillie appealed the denial of benefits
by the claims handler to the appeals referee, who affirmed
the decision. Lillie then appealed to the Employment Security
Division, which also affirmed the denial based upon monetary
ineligibility. This appeal followed.
9. Lillie challenges the most recent denial of benefits by
the Unemployment Division, caused solely by the unsuccessful
filing of unemployment claims at an earlier time. The
unemployment statutes contemplate that an injured worker
might not be able to find a job at the time his or her
temporary total workers' compensation benefits end.
Accordingly, Method Four delineates the process for
calculating the base period for monetary eligibility in those
cases. Id. § 1343(d). Method Four enables the
injured worker to meet monetary eligibility requirements
following a period of temporary disability by using the
pre-disability wages. In this case, however, the Unemployment
Division had already used those wages in the calculation of
monetary eligibility for the 2014 benefit year. The impact of
those weekly unemployment benefit claims in 2014 was to
establish a benefit year, triggering the determination of
monetary eligibility through the establishment of a base
period. The wages Lillie earned prior to his disability from
injury were used to satisfy this requirement. The
unemployment benefits statutes, as the appeals referee found,
expressly prohibit the reuse of wages used to meet a base
period requirement for a prior benefit year. Id.
§ 1301(17)(D). Had Lillie not made the unemployment
claims in 2014, his pre-disability wages would have been
available to meet Method Four's monetary eligibility
requirements, pursuant to 21 V.S.A. § 1343(d), for the
2017 claims. Because those wages had been used in connection
with the earlier benefit year, they could not be used again
for the 2017 ...