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Patuto v. Board of Review

Decided: January 24, 1964.

CAROL D. PATUTO, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT



Gaulkin, Foley and Lewis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, J.A.D.

Lewis

Appellant Carol D. Patuto filed a claim for unemployment benefits and established as her base year the period beginning November 5, 1961 and ending November 3, 1962. During that period she had two employers: (1) she worked full time for the Prudential Insurance Company for 35 base weeks, during which time she earned $3,244.79; (2) she also worked one or two nights a week for the Bloomfield Professional Services (telephone exchange) over a period of 27 base weeks, for which she received compensation totaling $742. Because of pregnancy, a compensable disability, she was obliged to resign both jobs. Patuto concluded her work with Prudential on Friday, July 6, 1962, the last regular working day of the week. That night, she worked for Bloomfield from 10 P.M. until 7 A.M. July 7, 1962, when she terminated her part-time employment.

The deputy of the Division of Employment Security considered Bloomfield to be her most recent base year employer and established her weekly benefits at $17, with maximum total payments of $442. On review by the Appeal Tribunal,

it was determined that the applicable rate should be computed on the basis of her full-time employment with Prudential, which resulted in a benefit rate of $47 with a maximum total of $1,222. That decision was appealed to the Board of Review, which reversed the Appeal Tribunal by a two-to-one vote. The divergent views of the Board were expressed in majority, concurring and dissenting opinions. Claimant appeals to this court.

In essence, the Board of Review justifies its position by literal adherence to the statutory definition contained in N.J.S.A. 43:21-19(x), which states:

"'Most recent base year employer' means that employer with whom the individual most recently, in point of time, performed services in employment in the base year."

Ergo , it is argued that claimant, having performed some work subsequent to her last working day with Prudential, is not entitled to a benefit rate computed on the basis of her last full-time employment. We are not persuaded that such an oversimplification of the basic issue and the interpretation applied by the Board harmonize with either the letter or the intendment of our Unemployment Compensation Law.

Numerous authorities are cited and discussed in respondent's brief to support the rudimentary precept that clear and unambiguous language of the Legislature must be construed according to its terms, and that the courts may not broaden the scope of a statute where the legislative intent has been plainly expressed. Particular reliance is placed on Hancock v. Board of Review , 46 N.J. Super. 418, 421 (App. Div. 1957), wherein this court, in dealing with the afore-quoted subsection (x) inter alia , said:

"We agree with the statement of the Board of Review that the answer depends upon a careful reading of the highly technical language of the statute and, if the statute be clear, we must follow it regardless of the result. Alexander Hamilton Hotel Corp. v. Board of Review , 127 N.J.L. 184 (Sup. Ct. 1941).

The court's duty is to construe a statute and not to write into it conditions or qualifications. That is a legislative function. Department

of Labor and Industry v. Rosen , 44 N.J. Super. 42 (App. Div. 1957). We are not unmindful of the fact that the beneficent object of this statute is to minimize loss to workers by unemployment compensation benefits. However, we may not accomplish that desired result by extending the application of the statute to factual situations not covered by its ...


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