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Greig v. Board of Review

March 5, 2008


On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 114,491.

Per curiam.


Submitted January 30, 2008

Before Judges Wefing and Lyons.

At issue in this appeal is whether appellant G. Jeanine Greig (Greig) elected to leave work "voluntarily" and "without good cause attributable to such work," N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), thereby rendering her ineligible for unemployment benefits. Because we find the Board of Review's (Board) findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record, we affirm.

The following factual and procedural history is relevant to our consideration of the issues advanced on appeal. On June 29, 2005, Greig was hired in response to an advertisement for a legal secretary by John L. Bonello (Bonello) in his law office. Working in the office, in addition to Greig and Bonello, was Bonello's secretary, Carol Carrino (Carrino), and his receptionist, Emily Andrews (Andrews). On May 5, 2006, Greig overheard Bonello speaking to someone on the telephone using profane language and degrading women. Greig felt the words were meant for her. She did not inform Bonello that she heard the comments, but according to Greig, it made her decide to leave Bonello's employment. On May 5, 2006, Greig left Bonello a telephone message saying that she would not return to the office unless she received an apology. Bonello did not return her telephone call, and Greig never returned to Bonello's office.

Greig filed for benefits on May 7, 2006. A determination of the deputy claims examiner, mailed on May 26, 2006, held Greig disqualified for benefits from May 7, 2006, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), because Greig left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work. Greig filed an appeal from the determination of the deputy claims examiner. On June 20, 2006, a hearing was held in the matter before the appeal tribunal. On July 10, 2006, a decision was issued by the appeal tribunal which affirmed the determination of the deputy. Greig then appealed to the Board on July 12, 2006. On September 8, 2006, the Board remanded the matter to the appeal tribunal. The appeal tribunal took further testimony, and on October 11, 2006, issued a decision which affirmed the earlier determination of the deputy. Greig filed an appeal of the appeal tribunal's decision on October 18, 2006. On December 22, 2006, the Board issued its decision, affirming the decision of the appeal tribunal. This appeal ensued.

A careful and detailed review of the testimony in the matter indicates there are two distinctive views of the facts. Greig testified that she suffered a constructive discharge due to a hostile and discriminatory work environment. She stated that the workplace exacerbated her pre-existing blood pressure problems and she suffered severe headaches. In her testimony, she related certain incidents of harassment. In particular, she testified that her co-workers, Carrino and Andrews, frequently used profane language toward her. With respect to Carrino, Greig testified that Carrino, who had Bonello's prior authorization, improperly signed Greig's pay check because Greig insisted that Carrino not do so. Greig testified that this started a major argument. Greig also testified that the office receptionist, Andrews, repeatedly referred to her in an obscene fashion, specifically noting two occasions.

With respect to Bonello, Greig felt that she got along well with him but that he did not appropriately control the office personnel. Greig testified that she overheard Bonello's May 5, 2006, telephone conversation in which he used disparaging language regarding women and that she thought it was directed toward her, and that that conversation was the "last straw" that made her leave. In sum, Greig portrayed a hostile environment which negatively affected her health.

On the other hand, Bonello testified that Greig did competent work but that she was temperamental and he often felt that he was "walking on eggshells around her." Bonello testified that there were incidents among the staff, and that he had advised his employees not to use inappropriate language or get involved in disputes. Bonello also testified that there were periods of months during which his staff worked well together. Bonello stated he could not recall making inappropriate remarks on the telephone on May 5, 2006, but that they were not directed toward Greig, and that if she had brought the matter to his particular attention, he would have apologized.

Carrino testified that she had disagreements with Greig and that she may have used inappropriate language on one occasion; however, she felt that Greig provoked a number of arguments and was hostile. Andrews conceded that she did use profanity toward Greig during certain instances, but that they were provoked.

From the employer's perspective, the staff occasionally had some disputes. Greig was mercurial and may have provoked some of the discord. The office was not a hostile environment.

The appeal tribunal concluded that the May 5, 2006, incident was not directed toward humiliating or degrading Greig. The appeal tribunal also concluded that Greig was not blameless with regard to the instances which provoked profane language among the staff. The tribunal concluded that the conditions at times may have been unpleasant, and that although some ...

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