On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor.
Pressler, Dreier and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.
Claimant, Juan Sanchez, has appealed from an adverse determination of the Board of Review in the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance. The Board had affirmed the decision of the Appeals Tribunal which in turn had sustained the deputy who initially heard the case. A trial de novo before the appeals examiner was conducted by a three-way telephone conference in which claimant testified from Puerto Rico through an interpreter. Neither party was represented by counsel.
The facts are relatively simple. Claimant is a migrant worker who had been employed as a farmhand in New Jersey by Chan and Son Oriental Products. He picked vegetables such as lettuce, radishes and garlic and also did some planting. He was paid the minimum wage of $3.35 per hour. After working from approximately July 5 to October 20, 1983, he quit, stating as his reasons:
Because I asked him to buy us some boots, gloves and something to kneel on when we were cutting the lettuce and he said no that we should buy it out of our own money. And he was also deducting 5 or 6 hours worth of work every week.
He obviously had discussed this practice with his employer, since according to claimant the employer justified the deduction as follows:
He said the deductions were made because he gave some time during the break at 9 o'clock in the morning. And that was costing him money.
Claimant further stated that he did not complain to a farm workers' association because a neighboring farmer had fired other employees who had complained. He also had discussed the issue of the protective clothing, but the employer told claimant that he "should buy them out of [his] own money. And the rest should also do so."
Mr. Chan, the employer, testified that claimant took "care of vegetables, oriental vegetables, planting cabbage, . . . like a radish, all kinds of stuff." In response to the claim of improper deductions the employer stated:
No. We got proof paper here. And at that time, I think, maybe he signed on the paper is it true and that everything is true and before we issued checks, and he signed the paper.
He denied that the employee asked for boots and gloves. He claimed the employee just ran away. The employer further explained why he provided no gloves, boots or knee pads or mats:
This is a personal property. When he work, he have to get boots, whatever, shoes, whatever, clothes. He has to prepare to work. I have no responsibility to buy for them clothes and the shoes, boots, anything. Except, ...