On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 176,208.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 16, 2008
Before Judges Gilroy and Chambers.
Appellant Jose J. Garcia appeals from the final decision of the Board of Review (the Board) dated April 24, 2008, denying his application for unemployment benefits and requiring that he reimburse the State for the amount of benefits he improperly received. The Board found appellant ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily left his employment without good cause attributable to work and directed that he return the benefits he had already received. We affirm.
Garcia worked for Arlo Electronics, Inc. in Roseland, New Jersey from August 3, 1993, until July 27, 2007, as a shipping and receiving clerk. He applied for unemployment benefits on July 29, 2007, and received the benefits for the period from August 4, 2007, to December 15, 2007, for a total of $9,840. The Deputy Director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance determined that Garcia was not eligible for benefits because he "quit [his] job without good cause," and, on January 24, 2008, the Director issued a request for a refund of the $9,840. Garcia appealed this decision to the Appeal Tribunal.
A telephonic hearing was held before the Appeals Examiner for the Appeal Tribunal on March 5, 2008. At the hearing, Garcia and Al Aranowitz, the principal of Arlo Electronics, Inc., provided testimony. Garcia testified that he was laid off from work on July 27, 2007, and that he moved to Florida in late August of that same year. Garcia maintained that Aranowitz had given him authorization to apply for unemployment benefits.
Aranowitz testified that Garcia told him in May or June that Garcia would be retiring in August. Aranowitz denied that he laid off Garcia, testifying that due to a large move the company was undergoing at the time, the loss of Garcia's services at that juncture was a hardship and that he would not have voluntarily laid off Garcia, who was "an extremely good worker." Contrary to Garcia's testimony, Aranowitz testified that he had asked Garcia to stay until October, offering him a bonus, but Garcia declined, indicating that his wife wanted to move to Florida. According to Aranowitz, the workplace held a retirement lunch for Garcia, and Garcia was given a watch as a present.
In its decision of March 6, 2008, the Appeal Tribunal found that Garcia had "left the work voluntarily" and that he "left the job because of relocation to another area due to retirement." As a result, Garcia was found to be ineligible for the unemployment benefits and was required to refund the monies already received. This decision was affirmed by the Board of Review on April 24, 2008.
In his appeal papers submitted to this court, Garcia presents a somewhat different version of the facts, stating:
In the summer of 2007 my boss Mr. Al Aranowitz and I had a conversation about that I was going to move to Florida. In the conversation we had, he agreed to lay me off for a while until I would get my feet on the ground in Florida. I came to Florida and right away I started looking for a job and I found a job in Publix Supermarkets in which I'm still working.
The scope of our review of the Board of Review's decision is limited. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). "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 factfinder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs." Ibid. (quoting Charatan v. Bd. of Review, 200 N.J. Super. 74, 79 (App. Div. 1985) (citations omitted)). We will uphold the agency's decision where it is supported by "substantial credible evidence." Ibid.
A review of the record indicates substantial credible evidence in support of the agency's factual finding that Garcia left his job voluntarily to retire and relocate. A person who leaves "work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work" is not eligible for unemployment benefits in New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a); N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(a). As a result, Garcia was not entitled to the unemployment benefits.
Since Garcia did not qualify for the unemployment benefits he received from August 4, 2007, to December 15, 2007, totaling $9,840, the Director properly directed him to return those monies. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d)(1) (providing that a person ineligible for unemployment benefits must repay the benefits "unless the director (with the concurrence of the controller) directs otherwise by regulation"); Bannan v. Bd. of Review, 299 N.J. Super. 671, 673 (App. Div. 1997) (stating that a person who has received unemployment compensation benefits and is subsequently found to be ineligible for the benefits, must return the ...