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TIMOTHY LONERGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
vs.
ALLIED CHEMICAL LABORATORIES, and ADMINISTRATOR, OHIO BUREAU OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, Defendants-Appellees.
 
Case:
APPEAL No. C-950474
 
Location:
COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO, FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT, HAMILTON COUNTY
 
Date:
February 14, 1996, Filed
 
Headnotes:
An administrative determination that an employee was discharged for just cause was neither unlawful, unreasonable, nor against the manifest weight of the evidence, when the evidence before the agency showed that the employee took and copied confidential documents of the employer without authorization; the employee's claim that his status as a whistle blower made his discharge without just cause as a matter of law failed because the record failed to establish that he was, under the test of Contreras v. Ferro Corp. (1995), 73 Ohio St. 3d 244, 652 N.E.2d 940, a whistle blower.
 
Attorneys:
Tobias, Kraus & Torchia and David Torchia, Esq., No. 0015962, 911 Mercantile Library Building, 414 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Betty Montgomery, Attorney General of Ohio, and David E. Lefton, Esq., No. 0029438, Employment Services Section, 1700 Carew Tower, 441 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202, for Defendant-Appellee, Administrator, Ohio Bureau of Employment Services.
 
Court:
DOAN, P.J., HILDEBRANDT and M.B. BETTMAN, JJ.
 

The pertinent facts of this case are not in dispute. Lonergan's former employer, Allied Clinical Laboratories

("Allied"), tests body fluid samples for evidence of drugs. Lonergan worked for Allied as a lab technician under the supervision of Ernie Chaffin. In December 1990, Chaffin instructed Lonergan to report the results of a particular test in a manner that Lonergan felt was violative of company procedures, as well as potentially illegal. In early 1993, a similar incident took place between Lonergan and Chaffin. Lonergan did not report the incident to Chaffin's supervisor or to other Allied management. Instead, he decided to open and make copies of sealed, confidential company documents in order to support his position that Chaffin had been reporting the results of certain drug tests in an illegal manner. Allied discharged Lonergan for these actions.

Lonergan applied for unemployment benefits with the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services ("Bureau"). The Bureau denied Lonergan benefits on the ground that Allied had discharged him for "just cause." n1 The Bureau's Board of Review ("Board")

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n1 Individuals discharged for "just cause" are ineligible for unemployment benefits. R.C. 4141.29(D)(2)(a).

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affirmed the decision of the Bureau. Lonergan then appealed to the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, which affirmed the decision of the Board.

In his sole assignment of error, Lonergan asserts that the lower court erred by affirming the decision of the Board. The scope of review for both the trial court and the appellate court in unemployment compensation cases is now the same, under the standard set forth in the recent case of Tzangas, Plakas & Mannos v. Ohio Bur. of Emp. Serv. (1995), 73 Ohio St. 3d 694, 653 N.E.2d 1207. Both courts may reverse a decision of the Board only in the event that it is unlawful, unreasonable, or against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at paragraph one of the syllabus.

Lonergan first argues that he was not fired for "just cause" because he is protected by R.C. 4113.52, Ohio's whistle blower statute. The question of whether the Bureau can lawfully find that a whistle blower has been fired for just cause is an interesting one. Unfortunately we cannot reach that issue in this case because, under the strict test set forth in Contreras v. Ferro Corp. (1995), 73 Ohio St. 3d 244, 652 N.E.2d 940, Lonergan has not established that he is a whistle blower.

Lonergan alternatively argues that regardless of whether he may invoke the protection of R.C. 4113.52, the lower court erred because the evidence suggests that Allied did not have "just cause" to fire him. We disagree. An employer discharges an employee for "just cause" in the event that the employee demonstrates an unreasonable disregard for the employer's best interests. See Kiikka v. Ohio Bur. of Emp. Serv. (1985), 21 Ohio App. 3d 168, 486 N.E.2d 1233. In this case, the evidence before the Board was that Lonergan took and copied confidential company documents without authorization. Therefore, upon review of the record, we reach the same conclusion as the trial court, that the decision of the Board was neither unlawful, unreasonable nor against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The decision of the trial court is affirmed.

And the Court, being of the opinion that there were reasonable grounds for this appeal, allows no penalty. It is further Ordered that costs be taxed in compliance with App.R. 24, that a copy of this Memorandum Decision and Judgment Entry shall constitute the mandate, and that said mandate shall be sent to the trial court for execution pursuant to App.R. 27.

Exceptions noted.

DOAN, P.J., HILDEBRANDT and M.B. BETTMAN, JJ.