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Luckett v. Kansas Employment Security Board of Review

Court of Appeals of Kansas

May 31, 2019

Eloise B. Luckett, Appellant,
v.
Kansas Employment Security Board of Review, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. Under the Kansas Judicial Review Act, K.S.A. 77-601 et seq., a prerequisite to filing a petition for judicial review is the exhaustion of all administrative remedies available within the agency.

         2. K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-709(b)(3) provides that the decision of the unemployment compensation examiner shall be final unless the claimant files an appeal within 16 calendar days after either mailing or delivery of the notice to the claimant.

         3. K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-709(b)(2) allows an unemployment compensation examiner to reconsider a decision, provided good cause is shown, prior to the termination of the benefit year, which, according to K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-703(d), lasts for one year following a valid claim for benefits.

         4. When a claimant seeks reconsideration of an unemployment compensation examiner's decision, the 16-day time limit for appeals set forth in K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-709(b)(3) is inapplicable. Instead, the one-year time limit as set forth in K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-709(b)(2) and K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 44-703(d) applies.

         5. Under the facts of this case, when the unemployment compensation examiner denies a request for benefits on the grounds that required documentation has not been received from the claimant, but the decision denying benefits expressly states that the claim will be reevaluated should the proper documentation be provided, the claimant's subsequent submittal of the required documents or a request that the examiner reconsider whether the claimant had presented the required documents is not an appeal of the examiner's adverse decision but a request for reconsideration unless the claimant indicates otherwise.

         6. The Code of Civil Procedure, K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 60-101 et seq., may be used by the district court to supplement the Kansas Judicial Review Act if the provision is a logical necessity that is not addressed within the Act. Therefore, a petitioner's motion to amend its petition for judicial review to add an unrelated claim in mandamus pursuant to K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 60-215 is not barred by the Act.

          Appeal from Geary District Court; Benjamin J. Sexton, judge.

          Peter Charles Rombold, of Hoover, Schermerhorn, Edwards, Pinaire & Rombold, of Junction City, for appellant.

          Justin McFarland, special assistant attorney general and deputy general counsel, Kansas Department of Labor, for appellee.

          Before Leben, P.J., Green and Powell, JJ.

          POWELL, J.

         Eloise B. Luckett appeals the district court's dismissal of her petition for judicial review of the Kansas Employment Security Board of Review's (Board) denial of her unemployment insurance benefit claims. Before us, she argues the district court erred in granting the Board's motion to dismiss for three reasons: (1) A disputed material fact precluded the district court's dismissal of her petition; (2) she established excusable neglect sufficient to justify her untimely appeal of the examiner's August 4, 2017 decision; and (3) the district court failed to address her motion to amend.

         But Luckett's claims before the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) did not really involve appeals from a denial of benefits. According to the record, in her letter to the KDOL in November 2017, she principally sought payment for benefits authorized by the examiner but that were never paid. Additionally, she sought reconsideration of the examiner's determination that she had not provided the proper documentation to allow for the award of benefits. Instead of directly addressing these claims, the KDOL, to put it in the vernacular, "blew her off" and instead applied a "cookie-cutter" appeal-track approach which doomed her claims because she had submitted her requests well after the time limit allowed for appeals.

         We hold the Board erred in affirming the referee's decision to construe Luckett's reconsideration claim as an appeal from the denial of benefits. The KDOL should have considered Luckett's letter as one seeking reconsideration of the examiner's order and allowed the examiner to make a determination on the merits as to the sufficiency of Luckett's documentation. Moreover, because Luckett timely appealed the referee's decision construing her request for reconsideration as an appeal, her appeal to the Board was timely. Once the Board denied her claim, she exhausted her administrative remedies and properly and timely sought judicial review. The district court thus erred by dismissing her petition for judicial review on exhaustion grounds.

         As for Luckett's claim that the KDOL had failed to pay her benefits the examiner found she was owed, we find the district court erred by failing to consider her amendment to her petition seeking relief in mandamus for this nonpayment. As our review of the relevant statutes involving administrative proceedings within the KDOL reveals no administrative procedure allowing a claimant to seek enforcement of an examiner's decision to award benefits, Luckett may have a valid claim. Moreover, Luckett's claim for the payment of benefits authorized by the examiner is not subject to the exhaustion requirement because there were no administrative remedies to exhaust. Thus, the district court erred by dismissing Luckett's petition without considering her amendment.

         Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Relevant to this appeal, the record shows Luckett filed for weekly unemployment insurance benefit claims with the KDOL and received four examiner's decisions finding her eligible and ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits on different dates as follows:

• On May 22, 2017, the examiner found Luckett medically ineligible for benefits beginning April 30, 2017, based on a licensed health care provider's certified statement. The decision advised Luckett to report any changes in status, to appeal the decision within 16 days, to continue filing ...

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