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Goebelbecker v. State

Decided: December 1, 1958.


Conford, Freund and Haneman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.


This is an appeal by claimant from a denial of unemployment compensation benefits under the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law, N.J.S.A. 43:21-5.

On November 25, 1957 Emil Goebelbecker filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Department of Labor and Industry, stating that he was not employed because of "lack of work," although he was "ready, willing and able

to work full time." After claimant was interviewed, the examiner determined that his "failure, without good cause, to accept or apply for suitable work," disqualified him from unemployment benefits. Claimant sought and was given another interview, also resulting in a denial of benefits. He then appealed to the Appeal Tribunal, Department of Labor and Industry, and after hearing, it was again determined that claimant was disqualified from unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Dissatisfied, Goebelbecker took a further appeal to the Board of Review, which affirmed the determination of the Appeal Tribunal.

Claimant appeals to this court from the decision rendered by the Board of Review.

The essential facts are as follows: Claimant on October 25, 1951 was employed by the Wright-Aeronautical Division of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation as a "miller experimental." He continued in the same capacity until September 2, 1957, at which time his basic wage was $2.61 per hour, plus 10% for working the second shift. On September 2, 1957 he was transferred, for lack of work, and was downgraded to work as miller, at a base pay of $2.35 per hour, plus a shift premium. He continued in the capacity of miller until October 28, 1957 when he was given the opportunity to return to his former work as miller experimental, at $2.77 per hour. He accepted the offer.

On November 25, 1957, again because of lack of work in the occupation as miller experimental, he was offered a job as broacher at $2.32 per hour, on the first day shift. He refused to accept the transfer because (1) he had never worked as a broacher; (2) he had never operated a broaching machine; (3) he was a skilled worker and, as such, objected to taking a helper's job at lower pay than he had been receiving. He said that he made no effort to examine the broaching machine, although he had seen it; he conceded he had the right to try broaching on a trial basis. He testified that he would not take a helper's job at lower pay since he could "go outside" and "find a job with better pay and in my line."

During 1957 the Curtiss-Wright Corporation suffered widespread layoffs due to lack of work, causing 7,000 to 8,000 employees to be separated from their employment. Before laying off a worker the employer was required, under its collective bargaining agreement, to offer him rated work in the same occupational or family group if his seniority warranted such action.

Claimant was a member of Local 669 of the United Automobile Workers, representing employees of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation under a three-year collective bargaining agreement beginning September 19, 1957. The agreement provides classifications for occupational groups. Occupational Group No. 32 is entitled "Milling" and includes plaintiff's first job as miller experimental, miller, and the job he subsequently was offered as broacher. The agreement provides that where there is a transfer to another job, which in effect is a downgrading, the employees with the greatest seniority shall, when subject to layoff, displace employees with the least seniority in other occupations in lower labor grades in the occupation group in which they are subject to layoff.

When claimant made his claim he stated that if he had taken the job as broacher, he might have lost his seniority rights in the event he was unable to perform the work satisfactorily and might also have received a permanent layoff. But the employer's uncontroverted testimony was that if the claimant had been unable to perform his job during a two-day trial, he would lose seniority as a broacher, but would not lose seniority in the classification of miller experimental or miller for a period of one year, which could be extended an additional two years. Furthermore, it was testified that if he had remained in the employ of Curtiss-Wright, he would have been entitled to a pension in the fall of 1958.

It was orally argued on behalf of claimant that even though he might have been retained in the broacher position by the employer, he would nevertheless, after a two-day trial period, be ...

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