On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges C. L. Miniman and King.
This is an appeal from denial of an application for unemployment compensation benefits. Appellant was employed by the BURLINGTON COUNTY TIMES (TIMES) in the sale of retail advertising. The employer did not participate in the administrative process.
Appellant began working for the TIMES in April 1968. Her last day of work was January 25, 2008 when she was age 72. The TIMES notified its work force that it had decided to eliminate fifteen positions and sought volunteers to take severance packages. This package was offered to fifty-five out of its 150 employees. Appellant was the only person in the advertising department to receive an offer for a severance package. She was told that if the severance package inducement was unsuccessful, a total of fifteen employees would be eliminated "one way or another." Appellant was the senior person in her department. To her, the future was ominous if she did not accept the severance package.
Several months before the offer of a severance package the TIMES management had asked when appellant intended to retire. She told management she had no intention at all to retire. Plaintiff finally accepted the severance package and then applied for unemployment benefits. Her application was denied on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support the requisite finding that she was in imminent danger of separation from employment if she chose not to accept the severance package.
The appeals examiner said this in denying appellant's claim.
The claimant's leaving of work because the severance package included a significant financial opportunity is a personal one. As the claimant never ascertained if her position was truly in jeopardy of being eliminated due to downsizing, there is no evidence that she was in imminent danger of being laid off if she chose not to accept the voluntary severance package. Considering the number of jobs eliminated, versus the number of total employees working for this employer, the chances of the claimant being laid off were quite slim. It was the claimant's responsibility to determine if continuing work would have been available to her by obtaining a direct answer from management. Unlike the aforementioned docket #179,312, the claimant made no efforts to do so. Therefore, the claimant is disqualified for benefits as of 01/20/08, under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), as the claimant left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work.
In effect, he found appellant did not sustain her burden of proof.
The Board of Review agreed and stated:
On appeal to the Board of Review, the claimant's attorney argues that the record establishes that there was a very strong likelihood that the claimant would be imminently laid off if she did not accept the package and other individuals who accepted the package have been receiving benefits.
Mere speculation about job stability is insufficient to establish good cause to quit as required to recover unemployment compensation; rather, surrounding circumstances at the time of voluntarily resigning must demonstrate lack of suitable continuing work either concurrently or at discernible and proximate point in time; together with statements or actions of employer showing very strong likelihood of imminent layoff, and circumstances must be so compelling as to indicate that there is a strong possibility that fears about employee's job security will in fact materialize, that serious impending threats to his or her job will be ...