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Calderon v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


March 13, 2009

WILDER CALDERON, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND CENTRAL TRANSPORT COMPANY, RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, 168,828.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: February 25, 2009

Before Judges Cuff and Baxter.

Claimant Wilder Calderon appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board) denying his application for unemployment benefits. The Board adopted the findings of the Appeals Tribunal that claimant left his employment with Central Transport Company (Central) voluntarily without good cause attributable to his work. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).

On appeal, claimant contends that on September 20, 2007, he was injured on the job by a fellow employee. He complained about the conduct of his co-employee and was discharged. He did not return to work when cleared by his physician because he believed that he had been discharged. The dock manager testified that he witnessed the accident but did not discharge claimant, and in fact, he had no authority to do so. According to the terminal manager, claimant was advised to return to work on October 1, 2007, but he never reported to the job.

Claimant admitted that he read and understood the physician's report that he was cleared to return to work and forwarded the report to his employer. Claimant insisted that he did not return to work because he believed he had been terminated following the on-the-job incident.

The Appeals Tribunal found that claimant knew he had been medically cleared to return to work but failed to do so. Accordingly, it found that his failure to return to work following his medical leave constituted a voluntary quit. The Board adopted the findings of the Appeals Tribunal that claimant had not been discharged from his employment.

Our scope of review of an administrative determination is narrow. We will reverse a decision of an administrative agency only if it is found to be contrary to law, or arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, Brady v. Board of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997), or not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole. Barry v. Arrow Pontiac, Inc., 100 N.J. 57, 71 (1985); Gloucester County Welfare Bd. v. N.J. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 93 N.J. 384, 391 (1983). If this court finds sufficient credible evidence in the record to support the agency findings, we must affirm. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210; Self v. Bd. of Review, 91 N.J. 453, 459 (1982).

The issue in this case is whether claimant voluntarily left his employment without good cause attributable to his work under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) and is thereby disqualified for unemployment benefits. The New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law provides that a claimant is disqualified from receiving benefits

[f]or 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 works four weeks in employment, . . . and has earned in employment at least six times the individual's weekly benefit rate, as determined in each case.

[N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).]

An employee who leaves work voluntarily has the burden of proving that he did so for good cause attributable to the work. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 218; Morgan v. Bd. of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962).

In Domenico v. Board of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 287 (App. Div. 1983), this court explained that "[w]hile the statute does not define 'good cause,' our courts have construed the statute to mean 'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed.'" "Good cause" is defined in the regulations as "a reason related directly to the individual's employment, which was so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment." N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b).

In Domenico, supra, the court stated:

in scrutinizing an employee's reason for leaving, the test is one of ordinary common sense and prudence. "Mere dissatisfaction with working conditions which are not shown to be abnormal or do not affect health, does not constitute good cause for leaving work voluntarily."

[192 N.J. Super. at 288 (citations omitted).]

The court noted that, ultimately, "it is the employee's responsibility to do what is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed." Ibid.

Although claimant and his former employer vigorously contested the circumstances of claimant's cessation of work at Central, it is not for this court to resolve the factual dispute. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210. There is substantial credible evidence to support the decision of the Board that claimant quit rather than was discharged. Therefore, we cannot disturb the ultimate conclusion that claimant left his employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work and is not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Affirmed.

20090313

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