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W.T. Grant Co. v. Board of Review of Unemployment Compensation Commission

Decided: January 27, 1943.

W.T. GRANT COMPANY, PROSECUTOR,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW OF THE UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION COMMISSION OF NEW JERSEY, AND RUTH KETTERER, DEFENDANTS



On writ of certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Katzenbach, Gildea & Rudner (Louis Rudner).

For the defendant Board of Review of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Commission, Clarence F. McGovern.

Before Justice Case, Donges and Colie.

Case

The opinion of the court was delivered by

CASE, J. Ruth Bramwell, now Ketterer, a resident of the City of Trenton, had been employed as clerk by W.T. Grant Company, operator of a large chain of variety stores, at its [129 NJL Page 403] Trenton store. On April 18th, 1941, she voluntarily left to be married. After her marriage she purposely remained out of employment until October 25th, 1941, when she decided to seek work. She made application for unemployment benefits on the following day. From then on she sought factory employment and on January 15th, 1942, obtained such employment with the Mitchell-Bissell Company. On November 7th, 1941, a copy of applicant's petition for unemployment benefits was served on the Grant Company. That company forthwith replied to the Unemployment Compensation Commission that work was then, November 12th, 1941, available to applicant at its Trenton store. The fact is that there was work comparable with that formerly done by applicant, and at equal or greater wage, available for her at that store during her entire unemployment of eleven weeks. The Commission directed her to go to the Grant store and apply for that job, but she refused to do so for the reason that she desired the higher compensation to be had from factory work. She testified: "I didn't like the work, there wasn't enough money in it for the time I would have to give up, and that is when I proceeded to look further for factory work;" also: "Q. Did they tell you to go there? A. Yes, they did; and I told Mr. Borden I didn't care to go there and I tried to prove to him that I tried to seek work elsewhere;" and further: "* * * coming back to the Grant Company, what did Mr. Borden tell you about Grant Company? A. He told me I should go there and apply for a position. Q. And you told him what? A. I told him I didn't want to go there because I felt I would rather have factory work." And again (italics inserted): " If they [viz., factory companies] were below Grants there would be no reason for it [viz., accepting factory employment], I would rather go back to Grants." During the period following October 26th until January 15th of the next year applicant asked for work at approximately fifteen places, one of which was the Mitchell-Bissell plant. At the last mentioned place she was told that they might have work for her in about ten days. The next day the force went out on a strike of unforeseeable duration. The strike actually lasted for seven weeks; after it was over

applicant again sought employment there and shortly got it. The chance of obtaining work at that plant is suggested by applicant as a reason why she did not go to the Grant store; but we find that that was not the true reason. She continued to seek employment at other places where the work carried the higher wage and where, consequently, she was willing to go. The young woman had had no factory experience and therefore may not be classed, during her unemployment, as a factory worker.

In chronological order there were decisions by a deputy granting benefits to the applicant, and by an appeal tribunal and by the Board of Review sustaining that allowance. Although the applicant was paid unemployment benefits in accordance with the finding, prosecutor seeks a reversal of the determination so that its account may not be charged with the benefits so paid. R.S. 43:21-6 (b).

The substantial question that comes to us for decision is whether a young woman who voluntarily quits work without reasons referable to the employment and by personal preference withdraws for six months from the field of employment may thereafter hold herself available for employment only in a restricted field, refuse a position with her former employer comparable in character and wage with her last position and during the period of ensuing idleness receive employment benefits chargeable against the fund maintained by that employer.

The public policy upon which the unemployment statute is built, and which we are to use "as a guide to the interpretation and application" of the statute, as declared in the statute itself, R.S. 43:21-2, is to achieve social security by affording "protection against this greatest hazard of our economic life," involuntary unemployment, "which now so often falls with crushing force upon the unemployed worker and his family" and constitutes "a serious menace to the health, morals and welfare of the people" of the state; a security which "can be provided by encouraging employers to provide more stable employment and by the systematic accumulation of funds during periods of employment to provide benefits for periods of unemployment, thus maintaining purchasing

power and limiting the serious social consequences of poor relief assistance." The objective -- to protect against involuntary unemployment and the need for that kind of assistance known as "poor relief;" the means -- to provide more stable employment and to create a systematic accumulation of funds during periods of employment to provide benefits for periods of unemployment, "thus maintaining purchasing power and limiting the serious social consequences of poor relief assistance." To give correct interpretation to the provisions of the ...


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