October 9, 2008
JACQUELINE M. KINKADE, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW AND LEAD DOG ENTERPRISES, LLC, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 153,407.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 22, 2008
Before Judges Lisa and Sapp-Peterson.
Jacqueline M. Kinkade (Kinkade) appeals from an August 29, 2007 decision of the Board of Review (Board) finding her ineligible for unemployment benefits. We affirm.
Kinkade was employed as a pet groomer with Aussie Pet Mobile-Cherry Hill (Aussie), Lead Dog Enterprises, LLC. She commenced her employment with the company in November 2006. Three months later, Kinkade told her employer that she was physically exhausted and wanted to leave her position. She agreed to remain at the job until she could train her replacement in order to avoid having to reimburse her employer for fees it incurred in training her, a condition to which she agreed when she signed the employment contract with her employer.
In May 2007, Kinkade began experiencing pain in her arm, wrist, shoulder, neck and back. She believed she was suffering from "tendonitis [from] . . . overusing [her] arm." On May 12 after she arrived home from work, she could not move her arm. She put ice and heat on the arm, to no avail. By May 15, she "just could not do it anymore." She had her fiancé call her employer on May 15 to advise that she could no longer work, and later that same day she e-mailed her employer to explain that she "couldn't handle the workload. [Her] arm, [her] wrist, [her] shoulder, [her] neck and [her] back were killing [her] and [she] couldn't handle doing the work anymore." Kinkade did not seek any medical attention at that point or thereafter. Instead, she self-diagnosed and determined that she had tendonitis based upon what she had "read up about stuff on [her] own."
On May 13, 2007, she filed a claim for unemployment benefits. A deputy claims examiner determined that Kinkade was ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits because she left work voluntarily and without good cause attributable to work. Kinkade appealed this determination to the Appeals Tribunal (Tribunal), which affirmed the deputy claims examiner's decision. In its decision, the Tribunal determined that "[Kincade's] leaving of the work because she was experiencing medical problems is not considered a cause sufficient enough to justify one leaving the ranks of the employed to join the ranks of the unemployed."
Kinkade appealed the Tribunal's decision to the Board. The Board adopted the factual findings of the Tribunal and affirmed the Tribunal's decision. The Board concluded that Kinkade was disqualified for benefits, noting that she "did not consult a physician about her medical problems before she left her job." The present appeal followed.
On appeal, Kinkade claims that she is being seen by three separate physicians for medical conditions that pre-existed her employment, that she is prepared to produce competent medical evidence of her pre-existing medical conditions, and that she left her employment because the work aggravated her pre-existing medical conditions.
Our scope of review of administrative decisions is narrowly circumscribed. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999). Our role is to determine "'whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record' considering 'the proofs as a whole,' with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge their credibility." Ibid. (quoting Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965)). We may not engage in an independent assessment of the evidence. Id. at 656. We will accord a strong presumption of reasonableness to the decision of an administrative agency. Smith v. Ricci, 89 N.J. 514, 525 (1982).
We are satisfied that the Board's decision was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. According to plaintiff, the physical ailments that prompted her resignation on May 15, 2007 surfaced three months earlier in February. Plaintiff, however, did not seek medical attention at that time or at any time leading up to the May 15 resignation or thereafter.*fn1 Under these circumstances, we find the Board's determination that plaintiff voluntarily left employment and without good cause attributable to work is supported by substantial credible evidence in the record.