July 13, 2009
EDWARD R. GEYER, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW AND G&B HOTEL EMPLOYEE LEASING, LLC, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 169,464. Edward R. Geyer, appellant pro se.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted June 3, 2009
Before Judges Lihotz and Messano.
Appellant Edward Geyer appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board), affirming the Appeal Tribunal's (Tribunal) determination that he was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because he left work "voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work." N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Our examination of the record, in light of our standard of review, satisfies us that the Board's final decision was properly premised upon facts in the record and is consonant with relevant statutory provisions. Accordingly, we affirm.
Appellant was employed by G&B Hotel Employee Leasing, LLC, as a chief engineer from May 15, 2006 until October 17, 2007. In August 2006, appellant was diagnosed with bone cancer, hospitalized for twenty-eight days and took a leave of absence for eight weeks. Appellant returned to work in December 2006 and continued to perform engineering duties as an hourly employee. In August 2007, Adam Goldberg was hired as hotel manager. Appellant stated he had problems with Goldberg, who "always found fault in what [he] did." Goldberg issued a written warning to appellant regarding the quality of his work.
On October 17, 2007, appellant's last day of work, he argued with Goldberg over his failure to work late. Goldberg issued appellant a second written warning. When appellant refused to sign the warning, Goldberg asked him whether he was "a man or a kid." Appellant became upset and left work, stating he would no longer tolerate Goldberg's criticism.
Appellant acknowledged he had not reported his work conflicts with Goldberg to upper management prior to his departure.
On appeal, appellant argues he left work "because he was subjected to intolerable working conditions." Additionally, he suggests he was not able to sufficiently communicate with the Tribunal during the December 19, 2007 telephonic hearing. He offers no evidential support for this latter claim, which we conclude lacks merit. R. 2:3-11(e)(1)(E). Therefore, we only review appellant's challenge to the denial of unemployment benefits.
A claimant bears a substantial burden of persuasion, and the determination by the agency carries a strong presumption of reasonableness. Gloucester County Welfare Bd. v. State Civil Serv. Comm'n, 93 N.J. 384, 390-91 (1983). In our limited review, we will not disturb an agency's decision unless it is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or unsupported by credible evidence in the record as a whole. Karins v. City of Atl. City, 152 N.J. 532, 540 (1998); Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). Further, we give substantial deference to the interpretation given by an agency to the statute it is charged with enforcing, Board of Educ. of Neptune v. Neptune Tp. Educ. Ass'n, 144 N.J. 16, 31 (1996), and give deference to credibility determinations made by the factfinder. Doering v. Bd. of Review, 203 N.J. Super. 241, 245 (App. Div. 1985).
To qualify for unemployment benefits, an employee must prove his voluntary termination from employment was for "good cause," which was "attributable to such work." N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a); Morgan v. Bd. of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962). Although not defined in the statute, "'good cause'" has been construed to mean "'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed.'" Domenico v. Bd. of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 287 (App. Div. 1983) (quoting Condo v. Review Bd., 158 N.J. Super. 172, 174 (App. Div. 1978)). In determining an employee's reason for leaving, the test is one of ordinary common sense and prudence. Zielenski v. Review Bd., 85 N.J. Super. 46, 52 (App. Div. 1964). "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." Medwick v. Bd. of Review, 69 N.J. Super. 338, 345 (App. Div. 1961). "[I]t is the employee's responsibility to do what is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed." Domenico, supra, 192 N.J. Super. at 288.
In the present case, appellant left work because his new manager, Goldberg, unfairly criticized him and the two had work- related conflicts. At no time did appellant report the problem to allow the employer an opportunity to implement corrective measures. Rather, he left and chose not to return.
Giving due regard to the Tribunal, which had the opportunity to assess appellant's credibility, we are satisfied with the Board's finding that appellant failed to prove he left work for good cause attributable to the work. Brown v. Bd. of Review, 117 N.J. Super. 399, 405 (App. Div. 1971). Accordingly, we respect the Board's expertise and defer to its considered determination. Karins, supra, 152 N.J. at 540-41.
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