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Goodman v. Board of Review

December 4, 2008


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 153,591.

Per curiam.


Submitted November 12, 2008

Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.

Lennette Goodman appeals from a final determination of the Board of Review, which found that Goodman was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm.

In May 2007, Goodman was employed as a claims adjuster by Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. She had been working for the company since October 2001. Goodman resigned her position with the company on May 11, 2007. She filed a claim for unemployment benefits, as of May 20, 2007. The Deputy Director of the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance found Goodman ineligible for benefits. Goodman filed an appeal from that determination, and the Appeal Tribunal conducted a hearing in the matter on July 13, 2007.

At the hearing, Goodman testified that she left the job on May 11, 2007, after having given the employer one week's notice. Goodman said that she quit "because of an accumulation of work related issues." Goodman asserted that the "final issue" that caused her to leave was that she had an "abundance of work" and had been criticized because a co-worker had volunteered to help her out.

Goodman said that the company had been satisfied with her work and, if she had not been reprimanded, she would have stayed. Goodman spoke with one of her supervisors, who told her that she sympathized with her and that she "should think about [her] decision to leave[.]" Goodman considered the matter but chose to quit "because of other work related issues."

Goodman explained that, in March 2007, a co-worker went out on temporary disability leave and, while she was out, Goodman's "job duties doubled." Goodman decided not to leave at that time. The other employee returned to work in June 2007. Goodman also said that she had been seeing a psychiatrist because of the stress of the work and her supervisor. Goodman asserted that the supervisor had "been very difficult to work with."

Goodman additionally testified that she was in Kentucky from May 25, 2007 through May 28, 2007. Goodman said that she went to Kentucky to visit her sister over the Memorial Day weekend. Goodman stated that she had not been looking for work in Kentucky.

The Appeal Tribunal issued a decision on July 18, 2007, in which it found that Goodman resigned "after receiving criticism from her employer [because she had] accept[ed] help from a co-worker." The Appeal Tribunal held that Goodman left work without good cause attributable to her job and therefore was disqualified for benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The Appeal Tribunal also found that, because Goodman was out of state on personal business from May 25, 2007 to May 28, 2007, she was unavailable for work from May 20, 2007 through June 2, 2007 and disqualified for benefits in that period pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(c). Goodman appealed to the Board, which issued a decision on September 13, 2007, affirming the decision of the Appeal Tribunal. This appeal followed.

Goodman argues that she left her job due to mental health issues that arose initially when her mother passed away. She asserts that the stress of her job aggravated that condition. She maintains that leaving her job for these reasons constitutes good cause attributable to the work and, therefore, the Board erred by finding her ineligible for benefits.

The scope of our review in an appeal from a final determination of an administrative agency is strictly limited. The agency's decision may not be disturbed unless shown to be arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997) (citing In re Warren, 117 N.J. 295, 296 (1989)). We can only intervene "in those rare circumstances in which an agency action is clearly inconsistent with its statutory mission or with other State policy." Ibid. (quoting George Harms Constr. v. N.J. Tpk. Auth., 137 N.J. 8, 27 (1994)).

Furthermore, "'[i]n reviewing the factual findings made in an unemployment compensation proceeding, the test is not whether an appellate court would come to the same conclusion if the original determination was its to make, but rather whether the factfinder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs.'" ...

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