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Krauss v. A. & M. Karagheusian Inc.

Decided: January 13, 1953.


McGeehan, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.


Counsel for the defendant-appellant represents the controversial question projected by this appeal to be one of novel impression in the domain of judicial review. It emanates from the administration of our Unemployment Compensation Law (R.S. 43:21-1), which originated in the statutory law of our State in 1936. L. 1936, c. 270. Parallel legislation exists today in all 48 states, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii, so that it may perhaps be said in accord with the intimations of counsel that although there is a lapful of pertinent administrative board and agency decisions, there are as yet only a handful of court decisions. We must recognize that the efficiency of legislation designed to provide social and economic security against the hazards of involuntary unemployment inheres in the wisdom of its administrative processes, and that administrative policies permissible within the boundaries of the legislation grow best in the soil of practical experience, hence except for cogent reasons courts are not inclined to interpose.

The present appeal brings before us the determination of the board of review appointed pursuant to R.S. 43:21-10(d) in a proceeding in which it was disclosed that one Wendel Krauss, who had been continuously in the employ of the defendant from 1929, requested on January 12, 1951, at the age of 68 that he be permitted to retire and receive the retirement

allowances to which he would be entitled by virtue of the terms of the existing retirement and pension agreement between his employer and its employees. His request was granted and his eligibility for such pension payments was approved.

On September 20, 1951, however, he filed a claim for unemployment compensation. The local agency resolved that he was eligible for such benefits. Upon review the appeal tribunal reversed the determination of the local agency, and that which is before us is the adjudication of the board of review by which the determination of the appeal tribunal is reversed. The functions of the board are quasi -judicial. Adolph v. Elastic Stop Nut Corp., America , 18 N.J. Super. 543 (App. Div. 1952).

In our consideration of the decision here impugned, we shall begin at the beginning and first recognize the factual findings of the board. We quote:

"He had been working in a cold, wet place which was filled with heavy odors from wet washed wool. This caused him to suffer from headaches and other ailments.

He will not return to his employer in any capacity, although there is no evidence that the employer offered him any other work or had any other work for him. Between September 5, 1951, the date of his claim, and November 15, the date of the Appeal Tribunal hearing, he consistently sought work on at least three days in each week, going to three or four places each day.

He lives in the City of Elizabeth. Not only is there no evidence that the employer alone constitutes a substantial portion of the labor market in that area, but we are satisfied that we are justified in taking judicial notice of the fact that actually that employer's factory is only a small section of the general labor market in the Elizabeth area."

The opening criticism of the employer is that the plaintiff voluntarily terminated his employment in the factory of the defendant "without good cause." This was fundamentally a factual matter. Noticeably the board resolved that his place of employment was cold, wet, and filled with "heavy odors from wet washed wool," which "caused him to

suffer from headaches." There was competent evidence undersetting the finding of those facts and we are not influenced by any material in the record to adopt a contrary determination. Cf. Curtis v. Liberty Restaurant , 4 N.J. Super. 13 (App. Div. 1949), affirmed 3 N.J. 1 (1949).

However, a solution of the predominant question requires a comprehensive consideration of all of the relevant facts in their relation to the eligibility of the plaintiff to receive unemployment benefits under the requirements of the statute.

Concisely stated, those facts are that the plaintiff, having attained the age of 68, notified his employer of his desire to retire and upon his retirement from that service and continuously since has received private pension allowances of $10.90 a month from his employer. He remained idle for a period of several months after his retirement and then during a period of several weeks preceding the filing of his claim for unemployment benefits he actively but unsuccessfully searched for some remunerative occupation. True, he has not sought and will not accept employment in any capacity from the defendant, his former employer, if some such employment were available. Because of his age he desires "light work." Prior to his service for the defendant as a pump operator he had obtained some experience in the operation of screw ...

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