In another unemployment compensation case, the Commonwealth Court held that a substantial and unilateral change to a claimant’s pay and performance goals was enough to meet the burden of a necessitous and compelling cause to voluntarily quit employment.

Claimant was a vice president of sales for an insurance company for approximately 17 months. Shortly before the end of his employment, he was reassigned to a new supervisor. Claimant had experienced issues with his former supervisor, and filed a formal complaint with the human resources department subsequent to this new assignment. After an investigation, Claimant’s employer did not take any disciplinary action against his old supervisor and dismissed his complaints. Shortly thereafter, Claimant’s new supervisor changed the way Claimant’s bonuses would be calculated, resulting in a significant decrease in his annual pay, and further set forth what Claimant felt were “unachievable expectations.” Claimant met with both his former and current supervisors, but was told that there would be no changes to the new expectations. Claimant considered the changes to be retaliation for the complaint against his former supervisor, quit his job, and filed for unemployment compensation benefits.

In upholding the Unemployment Compensation Review Board’s decision and affirming Claimant’s eligibility to receive UC benefits, the Court opined that “necessitous and compelling cause” to quit one’s job may exist where a unilateral and unreasonable change has been made by an employer, and further, that a substantial reduction in pay may amount to such cause. The UCBR concluded, and the Court agreed, that the Claimant had established such cause for quitting his job, citing to the above events which all occurred within a four week period. The Court further agreed that it was not unreasonable for the Claimant to believe that these “unachievable expectations” were in retaliation for filing a formal complaint with his employer.

While the Court is careful to point out that “mere dissatisfaction with reasonable modifications” is not enough to establish a necessitous and compelling cause to quit one’s job, employers should be aware of making unilateral changes which may be viewed as unattainable or unachievable.