July 16, 2008
LEEANN PAPADOUPALOS, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, PHOENIX HEALTH CARE, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from a final decision of the Board of Review.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted July 1, 2008
Before Judges Skillman and Winkelstein.
Appellant, LeeAnn Papadoupalos, a registered nurse, had been employed by Phoenix Health Care, a temporary employment agency, which placed her with various hospitals pursuant to contracts between Phoenix and the hospitals to provide temporary nursing staff. After the contract between Phoenix and the last hospital where appellant had been placed expired on September 18, 2006, appellant filed a claim for unemployment benefits. She received a benefit of $521 per week, with a maximum benefit of $13,546.
When those benefits were exhausted, she applied for additional benefits under the Workforce Development Act, N.J.S.A. 43:21-57 to -65 (the Act). She appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review dated August 16, 2007, which affirmed a July 6, 2007 decision of the Appeal Tribunal denying appellant's claim for those additional benefits. We affirm.
On November 26, 2006, appellant applied for additional benefits during her training to become a certified school nurse under the Work Force Development Partnership Program. On May 23, 2007, a deputy claims examiner mailed her a decision that she was ineligible for those additional benefits on the grounds that she was not permanently separated from employment due to a substantial reduction of work opportunities.
In a telephonic hearing on June 27, 2007, appellant testified that she began working for Phoenix Health Care in February 1999 and her last day of employment was September 18, 2006. The last hospital she worked for was St. Mary's Hospital in Hoboken. She left that position because "[t]he contract expired." She further testified that although positions were available in particular departments in other hospitals, she was not qualified for that work as she did not have the specific experience necessary.
Following the hearing, the appeal tribunal determined that she was ineligible. The Board of Review affirmed.
Appellant's claim is governed by N.J.S.A. 43:21-60a, which states, in pertinent part, that eligibility for benefits may be demonstrated if the employee has "received a notice of a permanent termination of employment by the individual's employer or has been laid off and is unlikely to return to his previous employment because work opportunities in the individual's job classification are impaired by a substantial reduction of employment at the work site." The pertinent regulation, N.J.A.C. 12:23-5.1(a)2, provides that the individual may be eligible for additional unemployment benefits during training, only if that individual "[i]s permanently separated from employment and is unlikely to return to such employment due to a substantial reduction in work opportunities in the individual's job classification at his or her former work site." Both the statute and regulation make it "clear that to obtain additional benefits during training, the claimant must be fired or laid off and be unlikely to return to [his or her prior] job because of a 'substantial reduction of employment at the work site.'" Bonilla v. Bd. of Review, 337 N.J. Super. 612, 616 (App. Div. 2001).
Here, appellant was terminated from her employment because the contract between Phoenix and St. Mary's Hospital expired, not because of a substantial reduction of employment at her work site. Although other nurses who worked directly for the hospital may have been laid off because of a reduction in work force, that is not what happened to appellant. She lost her job because the contract expired.
As an appellate court, we have a limited role in reviewing the decision of an administrative agency. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). So long as an agency decision is supported by substantial credible evidence, we are obligated to accord the decision deference. Doering v. Bd. of Review, 203 N.J. Super. 241, 248 (App. Div. 1985). Here, the record contains substantial credible evidence supporting the agency's determination that appellant is ineligible for receipt of benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-60a and N.J.A.C. 12:23-5.1(a). We therefore defer to the agency's determination.
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