May 29, 2007
GEORGE B. FIZER, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, AND MIDDLESEX TOBACCO & CONFECTIONERY CO., INC., RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. BR-64781.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 25, 2007
Before Judges Lefelt and Parrillo.
The Appeal Tribunal found claimant George Fizer ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit work voluntarily without good cause attributable to his work as a receiving clerk for Middlesex Tobacco & Confectionery Company. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The Board of Review affirmed. Fizer appeals and argues that he quit in December 2004 because of a heart condition he had since 1990, for which a defibrillator was required in 2003. Fizer supports his contention with two letters from his cardiologist explaining that the doctor had "advised him to leave his work for medical reasons."
A claimant who leaves work for medical reasons may qualify for unemployment benefits when the claimant submits unequivocal medical evidence that the work caused or aggravated the health problem. Wojcik v. Bd. of Review, 58 N.J. 341, 344 (1971) (finding doctor's equivocal statement that work "may" have aggravated claimant's condition insufficient to support claim); Israel v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 283 N.J. Super. 1, 6 (App. Div. 1995) (finding that to be entitled to unemployment benefits, an individual must show by "uncontroverted medical evidence" that the work environment aggravated the illness); Brown v. Bd. of Review, 117 N.J. Super. 399, 404 (App. Div. 1971) (finding claimant's "conclusory statements" that his work aggravated his medical condition insufficient to support claim); N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.3(d) (noting that "medical certification shall be required to support a finding of good cause attributable to work").
Here, the two doctor's notes submitted to the Appeal Tribunal were written several months after Fizer had stopped work. It is unclear from the notes precisely when the doctor advised Fizer to leave work. At the hearing, Fizer testified that well before he quit, his doctor had medically cleared him to return to work with no restrictions and that his doctor advised him at that time that he should determine on his own how much work to do and when to request help to perform his duties. He also testified that he had not consulted a doctor for two months before he quit his job.
When Fizer quit, he failed to supply his employer with any evidence that his work was affecting his health. Additionally, he did not afford his employer the opportunity to alter his working conditions in an effort to alleviate the stress that was allegedly affecting his health. Instead, he simply told his supervisor that he could no longer handle the job and walked out.
Based upon this evidence, the Appeal Tribunal found that Fizer quit his job because he determined on his own that he could no longer perform the functions of his job. According to the Tribunal, Fizer therefore "left work because of personal dissatisfaction with his working conditions" and he failed to prove that he had "a substantial reason for doing so."
We agree that the findings of the Tribunal are supported by the evidence and that they are neither contrary to the law nor arbitrary. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). Under such circumstances, we must affirm the decision even if we might have reached a different result had we heard the evidence. Campbell v. N.J. Racing Comm'n, 169 N.J. 579, 587 (2001).
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