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Wiggins v. Board of Review

December 4, 2008

MAGNORA WIGGINS, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND AIRCRAFT SERVICE INTERNATIONAL, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 162,508.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted November 13, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and Baxter.

Magnora Wiggins appeals from a December 10, 2007 decision of the Board of Review (Board) that affirmed the Appeal Tribunal's conclusion that Wiggins was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employment. We affirm.

I.

Wiggins was hired as a ticket agent by Aircraft Service International (Aircraft) in November 2005, working at Newark Liberty Airport, where her duties included checking in passengers for outgoing flights and lifting luggage weighing between fifty and 100 pounds. Her job necessitated considerable walking, standing, squatting and bending.

On January 2, 2007, Wiggins severely injured her knee during a fall at home. She remained out of work under her physician's order until January 29, 2007, when she returned to work wearing a knee brace. Her treating physician referred her to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed her injury as a torn meniscus and a partial rupture of the patella in her left knee. On January 30, the orthopedic surgeon advised Wiggins that she should restrict her work to "light duty only." Wiggins's supervisor at Aircraft notified her that no light duty work was available.

Consequently, Wiggins was out of work and on disability leave for another three months, through April 30, 2007. She did not return to work at that time because she was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus tear on May 10, 2007. After the surgery, Wiggins's disability leave was extended by her physician until August 27, 2007. However, on July 31, 2007, before her leave expired, Wiggins resigned, explaining that "the extensive injuries to [her] knee" prevented her from "attend[ing] to [her] duties."

Wiggins thereafter applied for unemployment compensation benefits. The Appeal Tribunal affirmed the decision of a deputy claims examiner that Wiggins was disqualified for unemployment benefits because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to her employment. On December 10, 2007, the Board affirmed that decision.

II.

We review Wiggins's contentions in accordance with our standard of review. The Board's determination that Wiggins was disqualified from receiving benefits must be affirmed unless it is "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable" or is not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). In determining whether an agency's decision is supported by substantial credible evidence, we are obliged to accord deference to the agency's fact-finding. Associated Util. Servs., Inc. v. Bd. of Review, 131 N.J. Super. 585, 588 (App. Div. 1974).

An appellate court "may not vacate an agency's determination merely because of doubts as to its wisdom or because the record may support more than one result." Petition of County of Essex, 299 N.J. Super. 577, 591-92 (App. Div), certif. denied, 151 N.J. 463 (1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1111, 118 S.Ct. 1043, 140 L.Ed. 2d 108 (1998). "In 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 fact-finder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210 (quoting Charatan v. Bd. of Review, 200 N.J. Super. 74, 79 (App. Div. 1985)) (internal alteration omitted). Therefore, if the record contains sufficient credible competent evidence to support the agency's conclusions, then we must uphold them. Clowes v. Terminix Int'l., Inc. 109 N.J. 575, 587 (1988).

This appeal requires us to decide whether, as the Board determined in its December 10, 2007 decision, Wiggins is ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits because she voluntarily left her job without good cause attributable to the employment itself. The relevant portion of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law provides that an individual shall be disqualified for benefits "[f]or the week in which the individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to ...


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