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Urban v. Board of Review

February 8, 2007


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, 52,544.

Per curiam.


Argued December 5, 2006

Before Judges Axelrad and R. B. Coleman.

Claimant, Barbara Urban, appeals from a July 8, 2005, Final Decision of the Board of Review, which adopted the decision of the Appeal Tribunal, concluding that defendant left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work and is disqualified for benefits as of October 3, 2004, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). We affirm.

Claimant worked as an accounts payable clerk for Utrecht Manufacturing Corp. (Utrecht) from December 17, 1998, until her resignation, effective October 3, 2004. Claimant had the same supervisor for approximately five years preceding her resignation from Utrecht. She alleges the supervisor directed claimant to do the supervisor's work, as well as claimant's own work. After returning to Utrecht in September 2004, from a two-month medical leave, claimant found a substantial amount of work on her desk that had accumulated during her absence. Ordinarily, company policy was to attempt to cover for an employee on leave, however, it appeared to claimant that no one had attended to matters coming to her desk during her leave. As a result of the backlog of work and the tension between claimant and her supervisor, claimant tendered her resignation on September 21, 2004, effective October 3, 2004. She had hoped, to no avail, that management would attempt to persuade her to withdraw the resignation and would address her concerns about her workload.

At her appeal, claimant took the position that her resignation was justified because (a) the work conditions had become intolerable due to her supervisor's constant criticism of her work; (b) her workload had increased significantly; and (c) the stress from her work was causing her negative health consequences. She testified she complained numerous times to the company controller about her current work conditions to no avail. In support of her medical claims, she produced a letter from her internist, Dr. Harvey Weingarten, dated September 14, 2004, one year prior to her resignation. That letter indicated that the stress from her work had spiraled out of control, causing an increase in migraines and a need for an increase of anxiety medications. Weingarten recommended that claimant find other employment. Claimant also submitted a letter dated February 23, 2005, four months after she resigned. That letter restated that the stress of her job was too much and that the doctor had recommended that she leave her job.

The Appeal Tribunal found that there was insufficient proof to establish that claimant's problems with her supervisor were anything more than a personality conflict. It found that the workload of all the employees had been increased and that claimant did not do any work that was assigned outside of her job duties. It concluded that conditions of claimant's work were not such to make the job intolerable. It also found that claimant had not produced sufficient medical evidence to demonstrate that her work caused or aggravated her medical condition to such an extent that it would be unreasonable to expect her to remain in that employment.

"Although 'good cause' is not statutorily defined, New Jersey courts have construed the phrase to mean 'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed.'" Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 214 (1997) (citations omitted). Based upon our review of the testimony presented at all three hearings and the applicable law, we are satisfied that claimant failed to satisfy her burden of showing that she left work for good cause attributable to her work.

In Morgan v. Bd. of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962), we noted the limited scope of our review:

The statutory scheme 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 appeal tribunals. In reviewing the factual findings made in an unemployment compensation proceeding, the test is not whether we would come to the same conclusion if the original determination was ours to make, but rather whether the fact-finder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs. [Ibid. See also In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999); Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210.]

Accordingly, we will not upset the determination of an administrative agency absent a showing that it was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, that it lacked fair support in the evidence, or that it violated legislative policies. In re Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 216 (1996); Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). We may not vacate an agency's decision because of doubts as to its wisdom or because the record may support more than one result. See generally, Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); De Vitis v. New Jersey Racing Comm'n, 202 N.J. Super. 484, 489-90 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 102 N.J. 337 (1985). An appellate court will not substitute its judgment for that of an administrative agency unless the agency's determination is "so plainly unwarranted that the interests of justice demand intervention and correction[.]" Clowes v. Terminix Int'l Inc., 109 N.J. 575, 588 (1988) (quoting State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964)).

Applying these well-established standards to the facts of this case, we are ...

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