September 27, 2007
IRIS M. GONZALEZ-FRAZEE APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND SLEEPY'S BEDDING CENTER, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from a Final Decision of the New Jersey Department of Labor, Board of Review, Docket No. 111,832.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 17, 2007
Before Judges S. L. Reisner and Gilroy.
Claimant Iris M. Gonzalez-Frazee appeals from a final determination of the Board of Review (Board), finding her ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm.
Claimant was employed by Sleepy's Bedding Center, Inc. (employer) from February 12, 2001, through March 4, 2006.*fn1 On March 19, 2006, claimant filed a petition for unemployment compensation benefits. On April 28, 2006, a Deputy Claims Examiner found claimant eligible for benefits. On May 3, 2006, the employer filed an appeal with the Appeal Tribunal. Hearings were conducted before the Appeal Tribunal on May 26, 2006, and September 6, 2006. On September 27, 2006, the Appeal Tribunal issued its decision, determining that claimant was ineligible for benefits from March 19, 2006, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). "Substantial testimony provided during the hearing established that the claimant left the work voluntarily due to lack of child care. This is considered a personal reason not attributable to the work." On October 5, 2006, claimant filed an appeal with the Board. On November 3, 2006, the Board affirmed the decision of the Appeal Tribunal.
On appeal, claimant argues:
POINT I. THE BOARD OF REVIEW ERRED WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE TRIBUNAL'S DECISION TO DISQUALIFY CLAIMANT FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AS THE DENIAL WAS AN ARBITRARY AND UNREASONABLE DECISION BECAUSE THE FACTS AND EVIDENCE WITHIN THE RECORD INDICATE THE CLAIMANT WAS TERMINATED FROM HER EMPLOYMENT AND THAT SHE DID NOT HAVE BABY-SITTING PROBLEMS.
POINT II. THE APPEALS EXAMINER ERRED IN BASING HER DECISION TO DISQUALIFY CLAIMANT FROM UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR THE CLAIMANT'S FAILURE TO FILE IMMEDIATELY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AND AN EEOC COMPLAINT.
Appellate courts have a limited role in reviewing decisions of an administrative agency. Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963); State-Operated Sch. Dist. of Newark v. Gaines, 309 N.J. Super. 327, 331 (App. Div.) (citing Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980)), certif. denied, 156 N.J. 381 (1998). There should not be an independent assessment of the evidence by the appellate court. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). The appellate court must accord a strong presumption of reasonableness to the decision of an administrative agency. Smith v. Ricci, 89 N.J. 514, 525 (1982); 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). Thus, the determinations of the administrative agencies must be given great deference. State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 159 (1964). We cannot overturn an agency's decision that is based on sufficient evidence, even if this court would have reached a different result. Clowes v. Terminix Int'l, Inc., 109 N.J. 575, 578 (1998); Outland v. Bd. of Trs., 326 N.J. Super. 395, 400 (App. Div. 1999).
We have reviewed the record in its entirety and conclude that the arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant a discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(D) and (E). The decision of the Board is supported by substantial, credible evidence in the administrative record. Henry v. Rahway State Prison, supra, 81 N.J. at 579-80. The Appeals Examiner, who had the opportunity to hear the testimony and assess credibility, did not credit claimant's testimony concerning why she left employment and credited the employer's account of the events. We defer to those findings on credibility. Logan v. Bd. of Review, 299 N.J. Super. 346, 348 (App. Div. 1997). Nevertheless, we add the following comment.
Contrary to claimant's argument, the Appeals Examiner did not determine that claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits because she had not filed her discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Appeals Examiner only considered the matter in determining claimant's credibility. See Doering v. Bd. of Review, 203 N.J. Super. 241, 248-49 (App. Div. 1985) (holding that while a claimant's failure to pursue a formal complaint against her employer for alleged sexual harassment cannot, in and of itself, disqualify the claimant from receiving unemployment benefits, it may be relevant and probative on the bona fides of the claim).