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Burroughs v. Green Apple, LLC

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 3, 2019

DEVON J.A. BURROUGHS, Petitioner,
v.
GREEN APPLE, LLC, APPLE GOLD GROUP (DBA) APPLEBEE'S, and R. GLEN PETERSON, CHIEF COUNSEL, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondents.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 May 2019.

          Appeal by respondent Division of Employment Security from order entered 9 August 2017 by Judge Donald W. Stephens in Wake County No. 17 CVS 3679 Superior Court.

          Mary McCullers Reece for petitioner-appellee.

          Respondent-appellant North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security Chief Counsel R. Glen Peterson, by Camilla F. McClain.

          No brief filed for respondent-appellee Green Apple, LLC.

          ZACHARY, JUDGE.

         Respondent North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security ("the Division"), appeals from the superior court's order reversing the Board of Review's decision that Petitioner Devon J.A. Burroughs was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm.

         Background

         Burroughs began working as a server for Applebee's in September 2015. Burroughs reported a wage-and-hour concern to Human Resources in May 2016, complaining of nonpayment for hours worked. Following an investigation, Applebee's issued a check to Burroughs in the amount of $1, 299.45.

         On 22 June 2016, Burroughs filed another complaint with Human Resources alleging that the assistant manager had engaged in a pattern of retaliatory behavior against him that included physical contact-specifically, "pushing [him] in [his] back" on one occasion. Human Resources employee Vanessa Roman opened an investigation into the complaint, and spoke with the assistant manager as well as other employees. Ms. Roman testified that, based on her investigation, she was unable to substantiate Burroughs's allegations.

         On 18 July 2016, Ms. Roman held a meeting with Burroughs, the assistant manager, and the general manager. At the meeting, all parties were asked to sign a document stating that they "would all agree to move forward and align with the organization's guiding principles." The document also contained an acknowledgment that Applebee's had "completed [its] investigation into the concerns raised by" Burroughs's complaint, and had taken "corrective actions as needed."

         Burroughs agreed to sign that portion of the document in which he pledged to abide by his employer's expectations moving forward, but he refused to sign the portion acknowledging that Applebee's had made a complete investigation into his complaint and that appropriate corrective action had been taken. According to Ms. Roman, Burroughs

said he would only provide me with additional details to support his allegations if I provided him a copy of my investigation report. Since I was the one that conducted the investigation I was the lead on that case, I expressed to him that I had completed a thorough investigation into his concerns and that the document that we were asking him to sign was only a tool to memorialize our previous conversation about alignment and moving forward and again continuing to provide our guests with excellent service. He still refused ...

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