On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor, 116,332.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 21, 2007
Before Judges Lisa and Holston, Jr.
Appellant, Jeanne L. Gursky, appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board), which affirmed a determination by the Appeal Tribunal that she was disqualified for benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Appellant argues that the Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably, that its determination was not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole, and that the Board did not follow controlling legal authority in reaching its decision. We reject these arguments and affirm.
Appellant was employed in Dr. Holtzin's medical office from March 2000 through May 12, 2006. She was the office manager. This was a relatively small office with less than ten employees. Appellant enjoyed her work and had no medical or emotional problems, but that situation changed beginning in January 2006, when Holtzin's wife, Carolyn, began participating in the daily office management activities.
According to appellant, Carolyn began implementing significant changes in office procedures, including changes in the computer and telephone systems, as well as job responsibilities and activities of the various staff members. These changes were made without consultation with appellant and without her input. Appellant experienced stress and felt that she was unable to perform her job effectively and that the office was becoming chaotic. She discussed the situation with Holtzin, but to no avail. Indeed, at one point, Holtzin explained that Carolyn is his wife and he would not intercede. Appellant understood.
In addition to being appellant's employer, Holtzin was also her physician. Because of her stress, he prescribed Xanax for her. By April 2006, in one of their discussions, Holtzin suggested that appellant take a medical leave of absence, but she declined because she felt the work conditions would be the same when she returned and a leave of absence would not solve the problem. In his testimony at the Appeal Tribunal hearing, Holtzin stated that he did not want to lose appellant, who he considered a friend and a valued employee, that he knew she was feeling stress, and "there were other options upon you know assistance with the job. So other duties were reassignment or more help for her." And, he reiterated that he offered her a leave of absence. In her testimony, appellant stated she did not request light duty, reduced hours or other adjustments in an effort to accommodate her medical condition. She felt that the only thing that would be helpful for stress would be alleviation of the circumstance where there were "too many people making the decision[s] with out [sic] consulting the office manager first." She felt that any adjustments would not change the circumstances because "a lot of the doctors were uh things were being done uh Dr. Holtzin's wife. And the confusion and the pressure and the chaos[.]"
In mid-April 2006, appellant began seeing Dr. Barbara J. Clark, a psychologist. She informed Holtzin of this, and he acknowledged his awareness of it, although he never received any report from Clark.
Plaintiff submitted her letter of resignation on May 8, 2006. In it, she stated: "Because of the work related stress I feel, I am unable to perform my duties effectively as your office manager. My physical as well as mental health is at risk."
Appellant applied for unemployment benefits. She submitted a May 10, 2006 report from Clark, which stated in its entirety:
Ms. Gursky is suffering from the physical and emotional symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks (DSM-IV-TR 300.01) brought about in large part by ongoing stresses suffered in her current employment.
Therefore, she and I have agreed that it is in her best interest to seek a position elsewhere; and, she is willing and able to do so.
Additionally, I have referred her for medical management for this condition and recommend regular weekly office visits for psychotherapy with the goal of ...