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Watson v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


May 20, 2008

SABRINA WATSON, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND NEWARK BOARD OF EDUCATION, RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from Board of Review, Department of Labor, No. 147,770.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 30, 2008

Before Judges Wefing and Koblitz.

Sabrina Watson appeals from a Final Decision of the Board of Review denying her application for unemployment compensation benefits on the ground that she left her employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to her work. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

Ms. Watson was employed by the State-Operated School District of the City of Newark as a security guard from January 1993 through October 2006. It is clear from the record that throughout the course of her employment, Ms. Watson had significant problems with respect to her attendance. Her absences were occasioned by her need to attend to various personal issues, often with respect to her son, as well as other family members. She had, on several occasions, been suspended without pay for chronic absenteeism.

She was again suspended without pay for the period October 16, 2006, through November 20, 2006. Upon her return, she was scheduled to be placed in a last-chance probationary program under which she could have no more than one absence a month unless she supplied competent proof of either a medical necessity or other compelling need. She did not return to work at the end of that suspension, however.

She said she did not return to work because she had requested a three-month leave of absence to attend to certain family issues, and her request was denied. A representative of her employer testified that while she orally asked her supervisor for such a leave, she never submitted a written request to the personnel department, as was required. Instead, she submitted her resignation in writing. She said she did so because her supervisor indicated she would not be permitted to take such a leave of absence.

Based upon that testimony, the Appeals Examiner concluded that she had voluntarily resigned her position and was thus disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits. The Appeal Tribunal and the Board of Review concurred.

We note the limited scope of our review in a matter such as this. We should not disturb the determination of the Board unless we are satisfied the determination is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Brady v. Board of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). If the Board's factual findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence, we must accept them. Ibid.

An employee who voluntarily quits her position must establish that she acted with good cause attributable to her work in order to be entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Id. at 213. Reasons which are personal to the employee and not connected to her employment do not constitute good cause within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Ibid. We in no way denigrate appellant's need to attend to certain court-related issues for her son, but that need was not related to her position as a security guard for the Newark school system. Rather, it was wholly personal.

The hearing examiner, moreover, credited the testimony offered by her employer that she did not comply with the procedures necessary to obtain a leave of absence. We note, moreover, that even if she had, the reason she proferred for wanting a leave, and the length of the leave she wanted, did not fit within the terms of either New Jersey's Family Leave Act, N.J.S.A. 34:11B-1 to -16, or the federal statute providing for family and medical leave, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 to § 2654.

The order under review is affirmed.

20080520

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