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Vera v. Board of Review

March 30, 2009


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 152,714.

Per curiam.


Argued March 9, 2009

Before Judges Carchman and Simonelli.

Appellant Alessandra Vera appeals from a decision of the Board of Review affirming a decision of the Appeal Tribunal that she was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits and liable for refund of benefits paid during the period of such disqualification. We affirm.

The following facts are summarized from the record. Appellant began her employment with Any Garments Cleaners in August 2004. In 2006, she became a full-time cashier manager at a salary of $500 per week.*fn1 In June 2006, appellant requested a two-week vacation because she had to take care of her son, who has special needs. The employer advised appellant that she could take the vacation, but it would be unpaid. Appellant then asked to be placed on unemployment. The employer refused.

Appellant began her vacation on June 17, 2006. Prior to the end of the vacation period, she advised her employer that she had to quit her job because she had to stay home with her son. Because the lack of adequate notice left the employer short-staffed, the employer asked appellant to work part-time as a lead cashier for $8.00 per hour. Appellant agreed. She worked one day a week thereafter. The employer then eliminated appellant's manager position, as it was no longer needed.

At the end of the summer 2006, appellant decided that she wanted to return to full-time work. The employer agreed, but advised appellant that the only full-time position available was the lead cashier position. Appellant accepted that position. However, she eventually became upset that she was not in a manager's position. As a result, on September 15, 2006, she submitted a letter, explaining that she was resigning "because the punishment that I'm having is hurting too much." The "punishment" to which she referred was the change they had made because I was employed as a manager and making money as a manager but I have some responsibility the same I did before and other cashiers [were] working with me... and I still like to work and hire two people and make less money. I did not have power to set everything I had before as a manager.

Appellant applied for unemployment benefits on September 30, 2006. She received unemployment benefits in the amount of $5616 for the weeks ending September 30, 2006 through March 24, 2007. Sometime in May 2007, appellant returned to full-time work at Any Garments Cleaners as a lead cashier earning $8.00 an hour.

On May 31, 2007, the deputy to the Director disqualified appellant for benefits, finding that she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. The Director notified appellant that she must refund the unemployment benefits paid to her. Appellant appealed, contending that she left her job because of the substantial change in the terms and conditions of her employment. The Appeal Tribunal initially reversed the deputy and the Director. However, after the employer's appeal, the Board remanded to the Appeal Tribunal for a hearing and decision on all issues.

On October 19, 2007, the Appeal Tribunal affirmed the deputy and the Director, concluding that:

The claimant has returned to work under the same conditions that she claims to have left for, it is not credible that the conditions were so bad as to leave her no choice but to leave employment in the first place.

The Board affirmed. This appeal followed. On appeal, appellant contends that she had good cause to leave her job because her employer offered her unsuitable new work with hours, compensation and duties substantially less favorable from those she agreed to perform. Thus, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(c), she is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

Our review of administrative agency decisions is limited. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997) (citing Public Serv. Elec. v. N.J. Dep't of Envtl. Protec., 101 N.J. 95, 103, (1985)). "'In reviewing the factual findings made in an unemployment compensation proceeding, the test is not whether [we] would come to the same conclusion if the original determination was ...

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