June 16, 2008
DANTE CANNELLA, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, AND RAPID MANUFACTURING CO., INC., RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, No. 147,551.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 7, 2008
Before Judges Collester and C.L. Miniman.
Appellant Dante Cannella applied for unemployment compensation benefits on April 15, 2007. On April 17, a deputy claims examiner held that his unemployment claim was void under N.J.A.C. 12:17-5.1 as he did not have sufficient base period wages to establish a valid benefit claim. On appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, he testified that his last employer was Rapid Manufacturing Co., Inc. (Rapid). Appellant was a major stockholder and president of Rapid and received a salary of $1,500 per week. In February 2005, the Rapid plant was closed and ceased business. Appellant went to the Division branch office in Bloomfield in 2006 and was told by a Division representative that he needed "certain papers" before he could collect unemployment. He was given two pamphlets, one labeled "corporate officers and owners" and the other, "telephone application for benefits." He testified that he was not told of the statutory eligibility requirement that he must have worked twenty weeks during his base year and earned an amount equal to 1,000 times the State minimum hourly wage. N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(e)(4)(A), (B), 43:21-19(t)(3), 43:21-29(c)(1).
Although the plant was closed in 2005, Rapid's board of directors and shareholders did not authorize the complete liquidation of the corporation until March 16, 2007. During the interim period appellant did not seek or obtain employment, but concentrated his efforts on liquidating the assets of the company. During this time, the appellant lived on his savings and his pension. He did not file a claim for unemployment benefits until April 15, 2007.
Following the hearing on May 8, 2007, the Appeal Tribunal held that appellant was ineligible for benefits. Appellant then filed an administrative appeal to the Board of Review, which was affirmed by letter on June 18, 2007. This appeal followed.
The central fact is that appellant received no earnings after the Rapid plant closed in 2005, up to the time he filed his application for benefits on April 15, 2007. He is therefore ineligible for unemployment benefits. N.J.S.A. 43:19(m)(1); N.J.A.C. 12:17.12.1(a). Appellant argues that he should receive benefits despite non-compliance with the statute because he was not advised of the requirements for eligibility when he appeared at the Bloomfield office in 2005. Unfortunately for appellant, we cannot supply wages where there were none. The Legislature has set forth the conditions of eligibility, and it is not our province to amend them. See Unemploy. & Disability Ins. Div. v. Board of Review, 188 N.J. Super. 71, 76-77 (App. Div. 1983). Since appellant's claim was correctly denied under existing law governing unemployment compensation benefits, we may not overturn that determination under our limited scope of review of administrative agency decisions. Brady v. Board of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997).
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