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Worsnop v. Board of Review

Decided: September 29, 1966.


Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.


Byron Worsnop appeals from a decision of the Board of Review, Division of Employment Security, which affirmed a determination of the Appeal Tribunal holding that he was ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits for the period from June 15 through July 12, 1965.

The facts are not in dispute. Worsnop was employed as a seaman by Hess Oil Chemical Corporation, working as an oiler on the tanker S. S. Hess Trader when the vessel was drydocked for repairs at Jacksonville, Florida, on May 31, 1965. The crew, including the claimant, was laid off and released from shipping articles with no definite date to report for work because of the nature of the repairs. Coincidental with his discharge from the shipping articles claimant, in order to establish his right to rejoin the ship applied for and received a two-week leave of absence and indicated that he intended to return on June 13, 1965.

Claimant went to his home at Easthampton, Massachusetts, and on June 2 filed a claim with the Massachusetts Division of Employment Security for unemployment compensation against the State of New Jersey. On the same day claimant, a member of the National Maritime Union, registered for shipping work at his union hiring hall in Boston, where the union operates a referral service for its members and ship owners. Thereafter, and until he rejoined his ship, Worsnop contacted the hiring hall daily.

On June 7 claimant telephoned his company and stated he was ready to rejoin the ship at Jacksonville. He was told that the company did not know when the ship would come out of

drydock. He called again three or four days later and was told he would be notified when he should rejoin the vessel. The ship repairs were completed on June 11, but because of an industry-wide labor dispute between shipping companies and three maritime unions of licensed officers (not claimant's union) the company decided to await the outcome of contract negotiations before reactivating the ship. From June 16 through July 10 the strike of the three unions resulted in a work stoppage on vessels operated by the company and other maritime employers. The strike was settled on July 10. The S. S. Hess Trader was reactivated on July 11 and claimant at once rejoined his ship.

Worsnop's claim for unemployment compensation benefits was denied and thereafter a hearing was conducted by the Appeal Tribunal. At the hearing it was undisputed that from June 2 until claimant rejoined his ship on July 11, claimant did nothing to find other employment except to contact his union hiring hall. There was testimony that vessels of the American Maritime Association were operating during the strike. However, at oral argument before us, it was conceded that claimant would not be referred to job openings on such vessels by his union since it had no contract with that association. There was testimony that during the work stoppage caused by the strike there would be little, if any, chance of securing employment on another ship.

The Appeal Tribunal held that under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5 the claimant was disqualified for benefits for two weeks immediately following his detachment from his ship, namely, from June 1 through June 14. Claimant does not question this ruling. However, the Appeal Tribunal also held that for the period from June 15 through July 12, the stoppage of work caused by the shipping strike had the effect of depriving claimant's union of almost all referral and placement opportunities, and therefore it could not be considered that claimant realistically sought work through union referral. It held that since claimant did not seek other types of employment during this period, he was in fact unavailable for work until

the labor dispute between the shipping companies and the other unions had been resolved; accordingly, he was ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Claimant appeals, contending that while job openings were decreased because of the strike, he was entitled to continue to look for employment through his hiring hall for a reasonable period of time before being required to look elsewhere for employment, and that the period from June 2 until July 11 was a reasonable period of time for him to continue to seek employment through his hiring hall. It is contended that since claimant reported to his hiring hall and continued to do so during the period he met the requirements of N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(c) in that he was available for work and had demonstrated that he was actively seeking work, and he therefore was eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.

The issue presented under the facts of this case is whether the claimant was available for work and demonstrated that he was actively seeking work during the ...

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