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Associated Utility Services Inc. v. Board of Review

Decided: December 23, 1974.

ASSOCIATED UTILITY SERVICES, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, AND CAROL ANNE HEINISCH, RESPONDENTS



Michels, Morgan and Milmed. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.

Michels

Associated Utility Services, Inc. (employer) appeals from a decision of the Board of Review, in the Division of Employment Security, Department of Labor and Industry, affirming a decision of the Appeals Tribunal holding Carol Anne Heinisch (claimant) qualified for unemployment compensation benefits.

Claimant voluntarily left her job as a clerk-typist and filed a claim for benefits under the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law, alleging that she had been harassed by her employer. The deputy in the local claims office of the Division of Employment Security held her disqualified on the ground that she had left work voluntarily without good

cause attributable to such work. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Claimant appealed from that determination to the Appeals Tribunal. The Appeals examiner, after hearing testimony from claimant and her supervisor, made detailed findings of fact and reversed the determination of the deputy, concluding that claimant had good cause for leaving her job and that no disqualification arose under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The employer appealed to the Board of Review, which affirmed the decision of the Appeals Tribunal on the record below. The employer then appealed to this court.

The employer contends that the evidence does not support the findings of the Appeals Tribunal that claimant had good cause for voluntarily leaving her employment. The New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law (N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)) in pertinent part provides:

For the week in which he has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, and for each week thereafter until he has earned in employment * * * at least 4 times his weekly benefit rate, as determined in each case; * * *.

While the statute does not define "good cause," our courts have construed it (as used in N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)) to mean "cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed." Goebelbecker v. State, 53 N.J. Super. 53, 57 (App. Div. 1958); see also, Zielenski v. Board of Review, 85 N.J. Super. 46, 52 (App. Div. 1964); Morgan v. Board of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962). In Krauss v. A. & M. Karagheusian, 13 N.J. 447 (1953), the Supreme Court, in discussing the meaning of "good cause" as used in N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) prior to the 1961 amendment which required the good cause for voluntarily leaving be "attributable to such work," commented:

Mere dissatisfaction with working conditions which are not shown to be abnormal or do not affect health, does not constitute "good cause" for leaving work voluntarily Zielenski v. Board of Rev., Div. supra, 85 N.J. Super. at 54; Medwick v. Board of Review, 69 N.J. Super. 338, 345 (App. Div. 1961). Intentional harassment of an employee, however, is an abnormal working condition and constitutes good cause for leaving work voluntarily. See Stevenson v. Morgan, 522 P. 2 d 1204, 1206 (Ore. App. 1974).

The New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law entrusts the determination of the question whether a claimant quit work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, in the first instance, to the administrative agency, and its appeals tribunal. Morgan v. Board of Review, supra.

Claimant testified before the Appeals examiner that she had continuously been harassed and mistreated by her supervisor; that very often during the working day she was subjected to undue scoldings by him, and that frequently he called her at home late at night to "give her hell." Claimant further testified that the calls were so frequent that whenever the telephone rang late at night she would panic and become very upset. She also testified that she made her supervisor aware of the fact that his intentional harassment was upsetting her greatly, and even told him on several occasions that she was "petrified" of him. Nevertheless, the harassment continued.

Late Sunday evening, May 20, 1973, claimant's supervisor telephoned her at home to tell her that she had again given him the wrong file. In response claimant stated that she had not given him any files. He then asked: "Where the hell can I get a copy?" When claimant again told her supervisor she had not touched the file, he said ...


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