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Stonco Electric Products Co. v. Board of Review

Decided: June 9, 1969.

STONCO ELECTRIC PRODUCTS COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND CAROLYN BRANTLEY, RESPONDENTS



Gaulkin, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaulkin, S.j.a.d.

Gaulkin

Claimant Mrs. Brantley was awarded unemployment compensation and her employer, Stonco Electric Products Company, appeals.

Claimant quit after being employed by Stonco for almost two years. She claimed she was compelled to do so because the work was too heavy and the working area too cold.

The employees of Stonco, including claimant, were members of a union. The union contract with Stonco provided for "grievance and arbitration procedure." Grievances were to be presented in writing, the first step being "Between the Steward on the one hand and the assistant Production Superintendent on the other hand. The aggrieved employee may, upon request to the union, be present."

The Division of Employment Security held that claimant was disqualified for benefits because she left work "voluntarily and without good cause attributable to such work." It based its decision on the fact that claimant left "without attempting to adjust grievances." We presume the Division meant under the collective bargaining agreement. The Appeal Tribunal affirmed. In its opinion, it said:

"The claimant was a member of the union. She complained to her supervisor many times that the packing job was too heavy for her. She also discussed the matter with union representatives. However, she did not file a formal grievance at anytime because she felt that the union was 'no good' and could not do anything for her. She left her work because of the weight of the packages she handled and because the work area was cold.

The claimant left her work before she attempted fully to adjust her grievance. A principal function of a union is to intercede in behalf of a worker who has a justified complaint about working conditions. Before finally deciding to voluntarily leave work, the claimant

could have filed a grievance with her union in an attempt to alleviate her complaints about her work."

The Board of Review reversed. It made no mention of the collective bargaining agreement or of the failure to use its grievance machinery. It said:

"The Findings of Fact of the Appeal Tribunal are substantially correct and are affirmed and adopted as though fully set forth herein at length.

The claimant's work was too heavy for her and the area in which she worked caused her to catch colds frequently. She complained about both and nothing was done about either. There was nothing else for the claimant to do but to leave her work and she had good cause attributable thereto for so doing. Hence, no disqualification arises."

Stonco's principal argument on appeal is that the claimant should be denied benefits for failing to pursue the grievance procedures. It contends variously that a quit cannot be for "good cause" if no attempt has been made to use existing grievance procedures to correct the alleged "cause," and that grievance procedures, as well as the arbitration with which they are to culminate under the contract ...


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