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A Pennsylvania woman who claimed the loss of her job at an airline industry supplier was related to the Sept. 11 attacks does not qualify for temporary extended unemployment compensation under a federal act designed to provide benefits to workers whose jobs were lost due to an act of terrorism, the Commonwealth Court has ruled. In affirming the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review’s order in the case, the three-judge panel in Hempfling v. UCBR found that petitioner Sandra Hempfling had not proved that employer Spang & Co.’s economic decline was a directly result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. “We conclude that the claimant did not meet her burden of proof,” Judge Renee L. Cohn wrote, “and that the board committed no error in denying [temporary extended unemployment compensation (TEUC-A)] benefits.” Cohn was joined by Judge Dan Pellegrini and Senior Judge James Flaherty. In April 2003, according to the opinion, an emergency wartime supplemental appropriations act was created to offer temporary extended benefits to displaced airline-related workers who had exhausted their regular unemployment. In order to qualify for benefits under the Wartime Act, the opinion states, citing the requirements as set out by the U.S. Congress, a worker must have worked with an air carrier, at an airport, or for an upstream producer or supplier for an air carrier. In addition, according to the opinion, the worker’s separation from his or her job must have been at least partially due to one of the following: a military conflict with Iraq authorized by Congress, the closure of a U.S. airport because of a terrorist act or security measure, or reductions in service by an air carrier as a result of a terrorist act or security measure. Hempfling had worked as an inside sales representative in Spang’s magnetics division from 1993 to July 2002, the opinion states. Because of a slowdown in all technology-related business, Spang decided to consolidate its business into one building, a move that would have shifted Hempfling’s department from Butler to Harmarville, Pa. In an interview with The Legal Intelligencer, Hempfling, a resident of Slippery Rock, Pa., said that she was already driving half an hour each way to work and that the move to Harmarville would have at least doubled her commute time. Hempfling said that instead of relocating with her department, she opted for a severance package that Spang was offering employees prior to the move to Harmarville. She also said that, including two extensions she sought on her initial unemployment claim, she received benefits for one year. When her regular and extended benefits had been exhausted, the opinion states, Hempfling filed for TEUC-A benefits under the Wartime Act. Hempfling said she became aware of her potential eligibility for those benefits when she received from the unemployment office a questionnaire that included a question on whether the respondent had worked for an airline industry-related employer affected by the terrorist attacks. Originally, according to the opinion, the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation Benefits and Allowances denied Hempfling benefits on the grounds that she had voluntarily quit her job by refusing to relocate and that Spang was not a supplier for an airline carrier. The opinion states in a footnote that the bureau’s latter basis for denial appears to have been in error, because Hempfling’s original application for regular benefits had been granted. After Hempfling appealed, the opinion states, the referee reversed the bureau’s decision, finding that Spang was a supplier of parts to airline carriers and that Hempfling had presented enough circumstantial evidence to indicate that Spang’s decrease in business was at least partially attributable to a terrorist attack. On an appeal by Spang, the board acknowledged that Spang was a supplier for an airline carrier, but it concluded that Hempfling had not met her burden of proof regarding the cause of Spang’s business slowdown. “Instead, the board found that there had been an economic decline in technology-related industries in general,” Cohn wrote. In turning to the merits of Hempfling’s TEUC-A claim, the panel found that Spang could be considered a “supplier” for an airline carrier under Congress’ definition. “Indeed, the board concluded that the employer met the definition of a supplier,” Cohn wrote, “because the employer admitted that a small percentage of its products are sold to manufacturing companies that, then, re-sell those products to airline carriers.” However, the judges found that Hempfling had not met her burden of proof on the connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and Spang’s economic downturn. Spang’s director of labor relations offered testimony to the board, stating that the company’s situation reflected a downward trend in all technology related fields and was not due to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the opinion. By contrast, the opinion states, Hempfling’s evidence — which consisted of newspaper articles on the Sept. 11 attack’s effect on the airline industry and an e-mail in which the author links Spang’s troubles to the attacks — were deemed hearsay by the panel. The board was represented in the case by Clifford Blaze, deputy chief counsel in the board’s Office of the Chief Counsel, and assistant counsel Nicole Bordonaro. The board’s press office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hempfling, a 41-year-old married mother of two, acted pro se throughout the case, drafting a 70-page brief for the Commonwealth Court’s review, she said. “It seemed almost traumatic for us to be told that we could have this and then be told that we couldn’t,” Hempfling said of her TEUC-A claim, from which she said she received several checks that she was able to cash. Hempfling said that she has been working part-time since the fall. “I had to cover my bills,” she said.

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