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Powers v. Board of Review

August 11, 2009

CHRISTINE E. POWERS, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WEST'S RELOCATION SERVICES, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from a Final Decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted July 22, 2009

Before Judges Yannotti and Lyons.

Christine E. Powers ("Powers") appeals from a final determination of the Board of Review ("Board") finding that she was disqualified from unemployment benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. We affirm.

This appeal arises from the following facts. On July 29, 2007, Powers filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits. A deputy claims examiner found that Powers was disqualified from benefits from April 15, 2007, because she left her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work.

Powers filed an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, and a hearing in the matter was held on September 26, 2007, before an appeals examiner. Powers appeared but a representative of her employer, West's Relocation Services ("WRS"), did not.

At the hearing, Powers testified that she had been employed by WRS since 1989. Her job duties included packing personal items for persons who were moving. Powers went on medical leave on April 16, 2007. Powers said that she was under "a lot of . . . stress" at the time and her doctor prescribed an anti-depressant. The doctor cleared Powers to return to work but Powers called her supervisor, Jeffrey West ("West"), and told him that she had "had enough" and could not work for WRS under those conditions.

Powers testified that the men with whom she worked with often made vulgar and derogatory remarks to her. She said that, initially, the remarks did not bother her but the remarks had "gotten worse and worse and worse." She insisted, however, that she was not making a claim of sexual harassment.

Powers recounted an incident that occurred in March 2007. She said that a fellow employee named Rueben repeatedly interrupted her while she was speaking with a customer. Powers twice told Rueben that she would be with him in a minute but he continued to interrupt. Powers told Rueben to "please shut up and let [her] finish." Rueben apparently became annoyed and left the job site in the company's truck. Powers stated that they could not finish the job because Rueben left with the materials required to complete the job, and she had to get a ride home from a temporary co-worker.

Powers additionally testified that, two days later, West called her and told her that she should not have spoken to Rueben in that manner because he was from Puerto Rico and "Puerto Rican women do not speak to the men like that[.]" Powers told West that Rueben had rudely interrupted her when she was trying to speak to a customer. West told Powers that she should apologize to Rueben. Powers stated that she made a halfhearted apology to "keep the peace[.]"

Powers also testified that other workers made derogatory remarks to her or about women. Powers stated that one worker made a remark of a sexual nature that she reported to West. In addition, Powers said that another supervisor would frequently call her at home and leave vulgar messages. Powers stated that she believed the supervisor was drunk when he made the calls.

Powers further testified that in April 2007, she was "miserable" and it was not "just work" although her job "had a lot to do with it[.]" Powers moved to North Carolina in June 2007. Powers said that she sold her house in New Jersey because her husband had died and she could not afford the taxes. Powers initially intended to purchase a smaller home here but decided that she "should just pack it up and move to North Carolina and be done with all [of] this." Powers believed that nothing was going to change on the job.

The Appeal Tribunal rendered a decision on September 27, 2007. The appeals examiner determined that Powers' testimony was credible. The examiner found that a hostile work environment existed in the workplace and Powers had endeavored to correct the situation. The examiner concluded that Powers did not leave her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work ...


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