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Mostafa v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


August 6, 2007

TAMIR MOSTAFA, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY, RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 63,466.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 17, 2007

Before Judges Fuentes and Graves.

Claimant Tamir Mostafa appeals from the final decision of the Board of Review (the Board) affirming the decision of the Appeal Tribunal, which determined he must refund $5,954 in overpaid unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm. Based on claimant's total earnings in 2003, the Appeal Tribunal found he was entitled to "a weekly benefit rate of $261 and a maximum benefit amount of $6,786.00." The Appeal Tribunal also determined, however, claimant received a weekly benefit of $490 for twenty-six weeks and received $12,740 in benefits. Its findings and conclusions included the following:

A claim for benefits was filed as of 5/23/2004, establishing the base year period as 1/2/2003 through 12/31/2003.

The claimant was employed [by the Cheesecake Factory] as a waiter from 8/2002 through 5/24/2004. He has only one pay stub for the base year period. The claimant believed the W-2 2003 earnings of $22,642.51 to be correct. He did not miss any weeks of work during the base year. One quarter of the base year earnings would be $5,660.62.

The claimant received benefits at $490.00 per week for weeks ending 7/3/2004 through 12/25/2004.

The evidence shows that the claimant had 52 base weeks with total New Jersey earnings of $22,642.51. The claim for benefits is valid with a weekly benefit rate of $261.00 and a maximum benefit amount of $6,786.00.

N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d) provides in part:

(d) "When it is determined by a representative or representatives designated by the Director of the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance of the Department of Labor of the State of New Jersey that any person, whether

(i) by reason of the nondisclosure or misrepresentation by him or by another, of a material fact (whether or not such nondisclosure or misrepresentation was known or fraudulent), or (ii) for any other reason, has received any sum as benefits under this chapter (N.J.S.A. 43:21-1 et [seq.]) while any conditions for the receipt of benefits imposed by this chapter (N.J.S.A. 43:21-1 et [seq.] were not fulfilled in this case, or while he was disqualified from receiving benefits or while otherwise not entitled to receive such sum as benefits, such person unless the Director (with the concurrence of the controller) directs otherwise by regulation, shall be liable to repay those benefits in full . . ."

The evidence shows that the claimant was overpaid benefits for the weeks in dispute. He is liable to refund $5,954.00 received as benefits for weeks ending 7/3/2004 through 12/25/2004, [in] accordance with N.J.S.A. 43[:]21-16(d), unless the Director directs otherwise by regulation.

Our role in reviewing the decision of an administrative agency is limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999); Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). "Unless a [c]court finds that the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, the agency's ruling should not be disturbed." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210. Judicial review encompasses three basic inquiries: (1) whether the agency decision offends the state or federal constitution or violates express or implied legislative policies; (2) whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the findings on which the agency based its decision; and (3) whether in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred by reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made on a showing of the relevant factors. See In re Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 216 (1996); In re Warren, 117 N.J. 295, 296-97 (1989); Campbell v. Dept. of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). See generally, Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 7.2 on R. 2:10-2 (2007). Moreover, an administrative agency's exercise of statutorily delegated responsibility is entitled to "a strong presumption of reasonableness." City of Newark v. Natural Res. Council, 82 N.J. 530, 539, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 983, 101 S.Ct. 400, 66 L.Ed. 2d 245 (1980). The burden of demonstrating the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable rests upon the person challenging the administrative action. McGowan v. New Jersey Parole Bd., 347 N.J. Super. 544, 563 (App. Div. 2002); Barone v. Dep't of Human Servs., Div. of Med. Asst., 210 N.J. Super. 276, 285 (App. Div. 1986), aff'd, 107 N.J. 355 (1987). In this case, the final decision by the Board is fully supported by the record. Thus, the Board's decision is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable.

Because claimant was not eligible for all of the unemployment compensation benefits he received, he must refund overpayments in the amount of $5,954. "N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d) requires the full repayment of unemployment benefits received by an individual who, for any reason, regardless of good faith, was not actually entitled to those benefits." Bannan v. Bd. of Review, 299 N.J. Super. 671, 674 (App. Div. 1997).

Affirmed.

20070806

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