August 22, 2007
JOHN PLATANELLA, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND TRUMP TAJ MAHAL, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 111,818.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted case of August 14, 2007
Before Judges Sabatino and Baxter.
John Platanella ("Platanella") appeals the Board of Review's final decision of June 26, 2006 sustaining the denial of his claim for unemployment benefits. We affirm.
The pertinent facts are uncomplicated. Platanella was employed as a warehouse attendant for the Trump Taj Mahal casino. As part of his job functions, Platanella would load trucks with various items from the warehouse in Pleasantville. At times he would drive the trucks to the casino, which is located in Atlantic City about ten or fifteen minutes away.
On April 13, 2006, Platanella was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"), contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, and, as a penalty for that DUI violation his driver's license was suspended for seven months. As a consequence of that suspension, his employer terminated him.
Platanella then applied for unemployment benefits. His claim was denied because he was deemed to have voluntarily engaged in conduct that caused him to lose his job without good cause attributable to the work itself. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) and N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.10(a). Platanella requested an administrative hearing, which was conducted telephonically in May 2006. The Appeals Examiner upheld the denial of benefits, a determination that the Board of Review likewise sustained.
In his brief filed on the present appeal, Platanella contends that he should not have been found ineligible for benefits because, he asserts, driving was only an incidental part of his duties as a warehouse attendant and other workers could have covered for him. However, that assertion is contradicted by his sworn testimony to the Appeals Examiner, in which he unambiguously agreed that, in connection with his work functions at the warehouse, it was a "job requirement to have a valid driver's license." The fact that other employees might have been assigned, in the employer's discretion, to handle Platanella's driving responsibilities for seven months does not change the legal analysis. See Yardville Supply Co. v. Board of Review, 114 N.J. 371 (1989)(similarly finding that a worker's DUI conviction and the suspension of his driver's license rendered him ineligible for unemployment compensation, given his job functions that entailed driving).
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