On appeal from Board of Review, Department of Labor.
Skillman and Follender. The opinion of the court was delivered by Skillman, J.A.D.
The issue presented by this appeal is whether an employee who voluntarily quits a part-time second job and is subsequently involuntarily terminated from her full-time primary job is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because she has "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work" within the intent of N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). We hold that an employee is not disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation under these circumstances and therefore affirm the Board of Review's decision upholding the award of compensation benefits to respondent Merkel.
Merkel was a full-time employee of Crossroads Program Corporation (Crossroads) from January 1984 until her discharge on September 14, 1988. During a portion of the time she was employed by Crossroads, Merkel also was employed by HIP of New Jersey (HIP) for approximately 22 hours per week. Merkel became exhausted from working more than 60 hours per week in the two jobs and concluded that her second job was having an adverse impact upon her health. Consequently, she quit her job at HIP on August 27, 1988. Two and a half weeks later, Crossroads involuntarily terminated Merkel.
Merkel then applied for unemployment compensation benefits. A local claims office of the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance awarded her benefits. HIP appealed this determination to the Appeal Tribunal.
Following a hearing, the Appeal Tribunal issued a decision affirming the determination of the local office. It found that there was no evidence that Merkel's discharge by Crossroads was for misconduct connected with the work and consequently she was not disqualified from receiving benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A . 43:21-5(b). It also found that Merkel was unaware when she voluntarily quit her part-time job with HIP that she
was going to be discharged by Crossroads. The Appeal Tribunal concluded that Merkel was not disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits under these circumstances:
It is not the intent of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law to deny benefits to a claimant who leaves a part-time job during a time she is employed elsewhere on a full-time job when she has no expectation that the regular employment is about to end. The purpose of that law is to pay those workers who are involuntarily unemployed. The basic reason the claimant was forced into the ranks of the unemployed was her discharge from [Crossroads] and not because she gave up her supplementary job with [HIP].
On a further administrative appeal by HIP, the Board of Review affirmed for the reasons expressed by the Appeal Tribunal.
This appeal turns on an interpretation of N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), which states in pertinent part:
An individual shall be disqualified for benefits: (a) For the week in which the individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, and for each week thereafter until the individual becomes reemployed and works four weeks in employment . . . and has earned in employment at least six times the individual's weekly benefit rate. . . . (Emphasis added).
HIP argues that because Merkel left her job with HIP voluntarily without good cause attributable to that job and was terminated by Crossroads before she earned an additional six times her weekly benefit rate in that employment, she was disqualified pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The Appeal Tribunal and ...