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Stembridge Taylor Prevails Before Georgia Court of Appeals in Precedent-Setting Decision Interpreting DOL’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule

March 14, 2022 Results

Stembridge Taylor’s client, a medical worker susceptible to COVID-19, was denied unemployment benefits through the GA Department of Labor. Her denial for benefits was initially upheld by first the DOL appellate board and then the Superior Court. After convincing the Court of Appeals to accept the case on discretionary review, Stembridge Taylor secured a decision reversing the lower court and finding that the DOL had improperly ignored its own emergency rule, promulgated in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 14, 2022, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the judgment of the Morgan County Superior Court affirming the Georgia Department of Labor Board of Review’s decision to deny our client’s claim for unemployment benefits when she was not able to safely return to work at a physician’s office during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Georgia Department of Labor’s own Emergency Rule specifically provided that, among others, workers with certain medical conditions that rendered them particularly susceptible to COVID-19 and who had an expectation of returning to work when the pandemic subsided would be deemed to be involuntarily unemployed through no fault of their own and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits. The DOL had disregarded that rule at all levels in denying the claimant benefits, which decisions were affirmed on appeal to the Morgan County Superior Court, but the Court of Appeals saw the error in those determinations and reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Read the Law360 media article here.
Read the Appellate Court Order here.

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