On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 140,041.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 8, 2008
Before Judges Reisner and Sapp-Peterson.
Claimant Francesca Pisani appeals from the decision of the Board of Review (Board) dated May 18, 2007, denying her claim for unemployment benefits. We reverse.
The facts presented during the hearing before the Appeal Tribunal (Tribunal) were as follows. Claimant was employed by World Travel Group, Inc. in its operations department. She had been with the company for approximately fourteen years. In early December 2006, claimant told one of the company owners, Joseph Berardo,*fn1 that she wanted to start working two days a week so that she could help her son, who needed a babysitter.*fn2 He agreed and told her that he would help her out. Claimant went on vacation beginning December 21 and returned to work on January 2, 2007, at which time the general manager told her it was not possible that she could work two days a week. Claimant did not report to work the next day because she spoke to Berardo, who "told [her] to stay home[,] give [him] a couple of days[,] that he would call [her]." Berardo called her two days later and told her "well[,] Francesca[,] for now I don't have anything set up for you. Please go [to] unemployment and collect[.]"
Berardo testified on behalf of the company. He denied that he told claimant she could work two days a week. Instead, he told her that "[he] would try to find a position for her two days." He denied telling claimant to file for unemployment benefits and indicated that the full-time position was still available for claimant. When asked by the examiner whether he in fact told claimant that the full-time position was available, he responded, "I think she knows about that." When questioned further as to whether he called her to tell her a full-time position was still available, he stated, "I don't [know] if somebody call [sic] her in the office."
Claimant filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits effective December 31, 2006. Her claim was denied by a deputy to the Director, Division of Unemployment Insurance, based upon the determination that she left work voluntarily on January 2, 2007 and without good cause attributable to the work. She was therefore disqualified for benefits in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Claimant appealed this determination to the Tribunal. The Tribunal found claimant's testimony credible and determined that "claimant would have been available to work her full-time hours" and that claimant's actions "were not a wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interest or a deliberate violation of the employer's rules." The Tribunal concluded that claimant was not disqualified under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she was discharged and directed by her employer to "go file for unemployment." The employer appealed and the Board reversed the Tribunal's decision.
In reversing the decision of the Tribunal, the Board stated:
We disagree with the Appeal Tribunal that the claimant's leaving was not voluntary. The claimant was not told she could no longer work in her full[-]time position. The claimant initiated the separation when she failed to inform the employer she was willing to continue in full[-]time employment when her request for part[-]time work was denied. The claimant's leaving was for personal reasons and without good cause attributable to the work. Hence, the claimant is disqualified for benefits from December 31, 2006, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).
The present appeal followed.
N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) provides in pertinent part:
An individual shall be disqualified for benefits: (a) For the week in which the individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, and for each week thereafter until the individual becomes reemployed . . . and has earned in employment at least six times the individual's weekly benefit rate, as determined in each case.
The statute does not define "good cause." However, in Doering v. Bd. of Review, 203 N.J. Super. 241 (App. Div. 1985), we held that where the reason is "sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining ...