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Lynch v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


May 29, 2008

HEATHER LYNCH, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND SIMON AND SHUSTER, INC., RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor, 156,381.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 19, 2008

Before Judges Lintner and Sabatino.

Claimant, Heather Lynch, appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board), which affirmed the Appeal Tribunal's decision holding her disqualified for unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) for having left work voluntarily, without good cause attributable to the work. We affirm.

The facts are undisputed. Claimant was employed as a legal representative by Simon and Schuster, Inc. Effective June 15, 2007, she resigned because her husband was transferred to Atlanta. According to claimant, had her husband not been transferred to a different location, she would have remained at the job. She confirmed that there were no problems at work. After moving to Georgia, Lynch sought reemployment by contacting two headhunters in an attempt to secure a job. Since moving, she had not contacted any potential employers herself.

In finding her ineligible for the unemployment compensation benefits she sought, the Appeal Tribunal determined that claimant was disqualified for benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributed to such work.

Our scope of review of an agency decision is limited.

Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). In challenging the agency's conclusion, claimant carries a substantial burden of persuasion, and the determination by the administrative agency carries a presumption of correctness. See Gloucester County Welfare Bd. v. State Civil Serv. Comm'n, 93 N.J. 384, 390 (1983) (stating the agency's determination carries "[a] strong presumption of reasonableness"). We also accord substantial deference to the interpretation given by the agency to the statute it is charged with enforcing. Bd. of Educ. of Neptune v. Neptune Twp. Educ. Ass'n, 144 N.J. 16, 31 (1996). We will overturn an agency determination only if it is found to be "'arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable or . . . not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole,'" or inconsistent with the enabling statute or legislative policy. Barry v. Arrow Pontiac, Inc., 100 N.J. 57, 71 (1985) (quoting Gloucester County Welfare Bd., supra, 93 N.J. at 391); see also Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 2ll; Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); N.J. Guild of Hearing Aid Dispensers v. Long, 75 N.J. 544, 562-63 (1978).

Applying those principles, we are in complete agreement with the Board's decision denying claimant benefits. The governing statute, N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), provides that an individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits where that "individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work." In order to avoid disqualification, the claimant has the burden to establish that she left work for "good cause attributable to [the] work." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 218. "Good cause means 'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed,' and the reasons for terminating employment 'must meet the test of ordinary common sense and prudence.'" Heulitt v. Bd. of Review, 300 N.J. Super. 407, 414 (App. Div. 1997) (quoting Zielenski v. Bd. of Review, 85 N.J. Super. 46, 52 (App. Div. 1964)).

Persons who leave work for good, but personal, causes are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 213. By the same token, "'[m]ere dissatisfaction with working conditions[,] which are not shown to be abnormal or do not affect health, does not constitute good cause for leaving work voluntarily.'" Domenico v. Bd. of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 288 (App. Div. 1983) (quoting Medwick v. Bd. of Review, 69 N.J. Super. 338, 345 (App. Div. 1961)). Rather, "[t]he decision to leave employment must be compelled by real, substantial and reasonable circumstances not imaginary, trifling and whimsical ones. . . . [I]t is the employee's responsibility to do what is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed." Ibid. (citations omitted).

Generally speaking, an employee who leaves work because he or she found a different place to live is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation. See Roche v. Bd. of Review, 156 N.J. Super. 63, 65 (App. Div. 1978). Indeed, N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(e)6 provides that "[a]n individual's separation from employment shall be reviewed as a voluntary leaving work issue where the separation was for . . . [r]elocating to another area for personal reasons." Here, claimant chose to relocate because her husband was transferred. Her decision to relocate was a purely personal decision, motivated by factors independent of her employer for which her employer bears no responsibility. The Board's decision finding claimant disqualified from unemployment benefits was "'supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole.'" Barry, supra, 100 N.J. at 71 (quoting Gloucester County Welfare Bd., supra, 93 N.J. at 391). We discern no basis to intervene.

Affirmed.

20080529

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