MCFADDEN, P. J., RICKMAN and MARKLE, JJ.
W. Trappier was denied unemployment compensation after he
left his job as a commercial driver for Seminole Sanitation
Services. Trappier appealed, and after a hearing, an
administrative hearing officer affirmed the decision.
Trappier then sought review by the Department of Labor's
Board of Review ("the Board"), and they affirmed
the hearing officer's findings and decision. Following
the Board's decision, Trappier filed a petition for
judicial review in superior court, which affirmed the
Board's decision. Trappier requested permission to file a
discretionary appeal, which this Court granted. In several
enumerated errors, Trappier contends that the superior court
erred by affirming the Board's denial of unemployment
benefits. For the following reasons, we reverse.
review of an administrative decision requires this Court to
determine that the findings of fact are supported by 'any
evidence' and to examine the soundness of the conclusions
of law that are based upon the findings of fact."
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Hudson v.
Butler, 337 Ga.App. 207 (786 S.E.2d 879) (2016).
"When this Court reviews a superior court's order in
an administrative proceeding, our duty is not to review
whether the record supports the superior court's decision
but whether the record supports the final decision of the
administrative agency." (Citation and punctuation
that the appellee has failed to file a brief in this case.
"As a result, we accept [Trappier's] statement of
facts as prima facie true and decide the case on the basis of
this statement and the evidence cited and quoted in support
thereof." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Thomas
v. Butler, 330 Ga.App. 675, 676-677 (769 S.E.2d 104)
viewed, the record shows that Trappier worked as a commercial
driver for Seminole Sanitation Services from April 2014 to
April 2016. On March 17, 2016, Trappier was involved in a
fatal car accident while he was driving a Seminole truck. It
is undisputed that Trappier was not at fault for the
accident. Trappier received injuries in the accident, and he
provided Seminole with a doctor's note that excused him
from work until approximately 10 days after the accident. As
a result of the accident, Trappier sought counseling and was
informed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder
the accident, Trappier spoke with the owner of Seminole at
least twice, informing her that he did not want to drive any
longer because of the trauma he suffered after the accident.
Seminole's owner offered Trappier a different driving
route where he would be able to drive at a slower speed than
he did on his previous route, but Trappier informed her that
he thought he could no longer drive. Trappier recalled that
Seminole's owner also offered him an office job, but that
the office job paid at a lower rate than his driving job.
Seminole's owner, however, claimed that she did not
discuss the option of an office job with Trappier.
Seminole's owner told Trappier to take as much time as he
needed before returning to work.
owner did not hear from Trappier again until November 2016,
when he filed a claim for unemployment benefits. At the time
that Trappier filed his first claim for benefits,
Seminole's owner considered Trappier to be absent from
work but still employed by Seminole. However, Trappier
believed that his employment had ended on the day he informed
Seminole's owner that he could no longer drive the truck
due to the trauma he had suffered after the accident. The
claims examiner determined that Trappier was disqualified
from receiving unemployment benefits because he was still
employed by Seminole. Thereafter, Seminole issued a formal
appealed the claims examiner's decision, and the
administrative hearing officer affirmed but modified the
basis for the ruling, disqualifying Trappier under OCGA
§ 34-8-194 (1). The hearing officer found that Trappier
quit his employment in March or April 2016 when he informed
Seminole's owner that he could no longer drive because of
the accident, but that Trappier did not inform Seminole's
owner that he was quitting. Ultimately, the hearing officer
determined that Trappier was disqualified from receiving
unemployment benefits because Trappier did not allow
Seminole's owner a full opportunity to address his
concerns, and because he did not show that he quit his
employment with good cause. Trappier appealed to the Board,
which affirmed the hearing officer's decision. Trappier
filed a petition for judicial review, and the superior court
affirmed the Board's decision. The superior court found
that the record showed that Trappier did not tell Seminole
that he was quitting and did not allow Seminole a full
opportunity to address his concerns, even assuming Trappier
impliedly resigned from Seminole prior to November 2016, he
was still required to show good cause for doing so, but he
cited no cases supporting his claim. Trappier requested
permission to file a discretionary appeal, which this Court
contends that the superior court erred by, inter alia,
holding that Trappier did not have good cause to support his
resignation from Seminole.
forth in the Employment Security law, "[t]he public
policy of this state is declared to be as follows: economic
insecurity due to unemployment is a serious menace to the
health, morals, and welfare of the people of this
state." OCGA § 34-8-2. "Therefore, Georgia has
a strong public policy favoring payment of unemployment
benefits to persons unemployed through no fault of their
own." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Hudson, 337 Ga.App. at 209. In accordance with this
policy, "courts should liberally construe the provisions
of the unemployment statutes in favor of the employee, and
statutory exceptions and exemptions that are contrary to the
expressed intention of the law should be narrowly
construed." Id; see also Scott v. Butler, 327
Ga.App. 457, 460 (1) (759 S.E.2d 545) (2014).
§ 34-8-194 (1) (A) provides that an individual shall be
disqualified for unemployment benefits when he or she
voluntarily leaves his employment "without good cause in
connection with the individual's most recent work."
"[T]he burden of proof of good cause in connection with
the individual's most recent work shall be on the
individual." OCGA § 34-8-194 (1) (D). "Whether
or not an employee voluntarily leaves employment is usually a
question of fact, but whether there existed good cause for
his voluntary termination more often requires a legal
conclusion." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Holstein v. North Chemical Co., 194 Ga.App. 546, 548
(3) (390 S.E.2d 910) (1990). "The question of whether
[Trappier] quit [his] job either with or without 'good
cause' requires a legal conclusion...." (Citation
and punctuation omitted.) Id. at 207-208.
an employee who suffers work-related PTSD can show good cause
for his voluntary termination is an issue of first impression
in Georgia. "An employee who voluntarily quits is to be
disqualified unless he/she can show that the employer had
changed the terms and conditions of work in a manner that the
employee, applying the judgment of a reasonable person, would
not be expected to continue that employment." Ga. Comp.
R. & Regs. 300-2-9-.05 (1). Factors to consider when
making this determination include, among others:
Whether the employee's health was placed in jeopardy by
conditions on the job. There must be some clear connection
between the health problem and the performance of the job,
and professional medical advice is required unless the reason
would be obvious that harm to the employee would result from
continued employment. . . . Provided, however, the employee
must discuss the matter with the employer to seek a solution
by another assignment or other changes that would ...