October 22, 2009
GLORIA C. RODRIGUEZ, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND NORTH HUDSON COMMUNITY ACTION CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.
On appeal from Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 188,619.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 30, 2009
Before Judges Fuentes and Gilroy.
Gloria C. Rodriguez appeals from the final decision of the Board of Review denying her application for unemployment compensation benefits. The Board found that appellant had voluntarily agreed to accept an early retirement severance package offered by her employer. As such, appellant was not qualified for unemployment benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). We agree and affirm.
We gather the following facts from the record developed before the Appeals Tribunal. Appellant was employed by the North Hudson Community Action Corporation for nearly thirty-three years, commencing on August 6, 1975 and ending on March 7, 2008. Her title at the time she separated from her employer was coordinator of the immigration program.
The record of the hearing before the Appeals Tribunal conducted telephonically on June 25, 2008 shows that appellant accepted a severance package offered by her employer consisting of four weeks pay and continuation of her medical benefits for six months. In response to questions posed by the appeals examiner, appellant repeatedly asserted that she had voluntarily agreed to leave her employment in return for the benefits offered to her under the severance package. Her continued employment was not in jeopardy at the time she agreed to resign.
Against these uncontested facts, the Appeals Tribunal found that appellant was not eligible to receive unemployment benefits because she had "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work." N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). In affirming the decision of the Appeals Tribunal, the Board rejected appellant's contentions that "because I was nervous and anxious about the hearing, I may have not made it clear, to the Appeals Examiner, that I did not leave work voluntarily."
Our scope of review of final decisions of the State administrative agency charged with enforcing the laws governing eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits is limited to determining whether the agency acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably. Lourdes Med. Ctr. of Burlington County v. Board of Review, 197 N.J. 339, 360 (2009). In Brady v. Board of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 222 (1997), the Court held that employees who volunteer to accept an early retirement incentive package are disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), unless they "establish by 'definite objective facts,' (1) a well-grounded fear of 'imminent layoff' and (2) that they 'would suffer a substantial [economic] loss by not accepting early retirement.'"
Here, the competent evidence supports the Board's finding that appellant voluntarily agreed to retire early in consideration of the benefits offered to her by her employer in the severance package.
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