July 18, 2008
LAKESHA GIVENS, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND COLUMBUS HOSPITAL,*FN1 RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from a Final Administrative Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor, No. 151,368.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 14, 2008
Before Judges Wefing and Kestin.
Lakesha Givens appeals from a Final Decision of the Board of Review. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Appellant had been employed as a phlebotomist by Columbus Hospital from December 2004 until February 2007, at which point she went on maternity leave. While on leave she relocated to Virginia. In April, the month she was scheduled to return to work, she contacted her employer and gave her resignation. When Ms. Givens filed a claim for unemployment benefits, she was found ineligible. Following a telephone hearing, the Appeal Tribunal determined that she was disqualified in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) and N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1. Ms. Givens filed an appeal with the Board of Review, which affirmed the decision of the Appeal Tribunal. This appeal followed.
The issue under review is whether appellant should have been disqualified for benefits as a result of leaving work "voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work."
N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The phrase "good cause attributable to such work" is interpreted by regulation to mean "a reason related directly to the individual's employment, which was so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment." N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b).
Appellant does not dispute that disqualification is proper where a claimant's decision to resign and relocate out of state is personal and unrelated to work. Appellant challenges, however, the agency's determination that her decision to resign was unrelated to work. She testified at the administrative hearing, and continues to maintain, that her manager had failed to provide her with wage increases after promising to do so. She testified that, prior to going on maternity leave, she had turned down two offers of employment from other employers in reliance on her manager's promises. Appellant contends that she had thus exhausted all local employment opportunities, and moved to Virginia out of necessity. She argues that the agency erred when it declined to find these facts.
Our review of a decision by the Board of Review is deferential, and we will not disturb the decision unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). Factual findings made by the agency will be upheld so long as they are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Id. at 210-11. The test is whether the finder of fact could reasonably have arrived at its conclusion based on the proofs submitted. Id. at 210.
"Claimants bear the burden of proof to establish their right to unemployment benefits." Id. at 218. Appellant here was required to show good cause attributable to her work.
N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(c). Based on the record submitted in this appeal, the only evidence of a basis for appellant's decision to resign is her own testimony to the Appeal Tribunal. She testified that her manager promised her a wage increase, and that she relied on that promise by rejecting two job offers from other employers. She testified that she decided to resign because the promise was not fulfilled, and that she made the decision two months prior to going on maternity leave. She admitted that she did not inform her employer of her decision to resign until she had already relocated to Virginia and was near the end of her maternity leave. She could not explain why she did not inform her employer sooner. She testified that when she did contact the employer, her stated reason for resigning was that she had relocated.
Appellant could not provide the Appeal Tribunal with the date or dates on which her manager allegedly promised a wage increase. She testified that the promise did not include a specific amount of an increase, but only regarded the scheduling of an interview of some sort. She estimated that the promise was perhaps made in early November 2006, some three months before appellant went on maternity leave. She admitted that she did not speak with her manager about a wage increase after that time. She also admitted that she was not promised any future wage increases when she was hired in 2004.
The Appeal Tribunal found that "[t]he claimant's contention that she left work because she was promised a raise prior to her leaving work is not credible, as she did not discuss receiving a raise with management prior to her medical leave of absence." The Appeal Tribunal concluded, and the Board of Review agreed, that the actual reason for appellant's decision to resign was that she chose, for personal reasons, to relocate to Virginia. We give due regard to such credibility determinations. Logan v. Bd. of Review, 299 N.J. Super. 346, 348 (App. Div. 1997). Because there was no other evidence of good cause attributable to appellant's work, appellant failed to meet her burden of proof.
Based on the evidence in the record, and giving due regard to credibility determinations, we find that the factual determinations of the Appeal Tribunal were reasonable and supported by substantial evidence in the record. We therefore cannot find that the Board of Review's decision to affirm the Appeal Tribunal was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.