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Meaney v. Board of Review

Decided: June 28, 1977.

MARY K. MEANEY, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND ATLAS FLORAL DECORATORS, INC., RESPONDENTS



Matthews, Seidman and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Horn, J.A.D.

Horn

Claimant appeals from the decision of the Board of Review (Board), Division of Employment Security (Division), affirming a determination of the Appeal Tribunal that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits during the base year from December 29, 1974 to December 27, 1975.

For several years before terminating her employment on November 29, 1974 claimant worked in New Jersey for Atlas Floral Decorators, Inc (Atlas). She left her employment because of impending childbirth and subsequently received temporary disability benefits based on her pregnancy for the four-week period following the delivery of her child on December 4, 1974.

In or about January 1975 she went to the Englewood unemployment compensation office to find out how to file a claim for unemployment benefits. The clerk at that office told her that "I wasn't covered in New Jersey and I should go to New York." She did not insist on filing a claim "[b]ecause I was taking their advice at face value."

Inquiry of the Unemployment Board in New York disclosed that she was ineligible in that state. She was there told to file in New Jersey. In the meantime, claimant filed a complaint with the State Division of Employment Security, which resulted in an investigation and determination that her employer had improperly failed to file required reports and to pay the required unemployment compensation taxes during the time of her employment by it.

This problem was cleared up in November or December 1975 when Atlas paid all the back taxes. On January 5 or 6, 1976 she filed the instant claim for unemployment compensation benefits, which was rejected successively by a Division deputy, the Appeal Tribunal (following an administrative

hearing), and finally by the Board, which affirmed the decision of the Appeal Tribunal.

The Appeal Tribunal determined that the claim filed in January 1976 was untimely because it established a base year of December 29, 1974 to December 27, 1975, during which interval claimant was unemployed. N.J.S.A. 43:21-19(c); N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(e). If the claim had been filed in January 1975 it would have established the base year as that for approximately one year preceding the benefit year during which she had been employed and was eligible for unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-19.

Claimant asserts that her failure to file a timely application was due to misleading advice on the part of the clerk, an employee of the Division, so that her claim should not be barred. The Board takes the position that claimant, by that assertion, is contending that the Division is estopped; further, that estoppel may not be invoked against the Division. We do not share the Board's view.

We need not consider whether estoppel applies or does not apply. We need only consider whether the determination below constituted an abuse of discretion on the part of the Board if the application could have been predated in order to afford relief to claimant.

The declared public policy of the Unemployment Compensation Law as set forth in N.J.S.A. 43:21-2, must be interpreted to mean that the law is remedial in nature and hence must be liberally construed in favor of the allowance of benefits. Eagle Truck Transport, Inc. v. Board of Review , 29 N.J. 280, 286 (1959); Westinghouse Elec. Corp. v. Board of Review , 25 N.J. 221 (1957); Teichler v. Curtiss-Wrgiht Corp. , 24 N.J. 585 (1957). Administrative agencies in appropriate situations are endowed with powers comparable with those possessed by courts for the purpose of advancing the interests of justice. Air-Way Branches, Inc. v. Board of Review , 10 ...


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