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Staffa v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


December 2, 2009

ELANA STAFFA, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND THE WYCKOFF GROUP, INC., RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 169,746.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 7, 2009

Before Judges Graves and Sabatino.

Appellant Elana Staffa (Staffa) filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits on April 29, 2007, and she collected benefits totaling $12,114 for the weeks ending May 5, 2007, through October 20, 2007. She appeals from a determination that she was ineligible for benefits because she "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work," N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), and a subsequent order by the Board of Review on March 14, 2008, dismissing her administrative appeal because it was untimely. We affirm.

The relevant facts pertaining to Staffa's employment were developed during an Appeal Tribunal hearing on January 25, 2008. Staffa testified she began working for Heidelberg USA in Cranbury, New Jersey, but in 2004, when her position as a service dispatcher was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia, she agreed to relocate to Georgia. Staffa continued working for Heidelberg in Georgia for approximately two years, until April 29, 2006. Plaintiff testified she could have continued to work for Heidelberg in Atlanta, Georgia, but she returned to New Jersey so she could spend more time with her family:

Well I was working in New Jersey for Heidelberg and after a couple of years, my position was going to be terminated in New Jersey and they were moving my position as well as many others to the corporate office in Atlanta, Georgia or Kennesaw, Georgia. I interviewed and they hired me in Kennesaw. So I moved and transferred for the company and I worked for them in Kennesaw for about two years and then I transferred back home to New Jersey.

Q: Why did you transfer back to New Jersey?

A: To be with my family.

Q: . . . Why were they looking for a replacement for you in Atlanta? Was it because you no longer wanted to work there?

A: No. I would love to work there. I still would love to work there but they wanted my position--my job in the corporate office.

Q: Right. But you had been doing that for two years and then you said you transferred back to New Jersey.

A: Right.

Q: You transferred back to New Jersey because you wanted to be with your family.

A: Right.

Q: Is that the only reason why you transferred back to New Jersey?

A: Pretty much. Yeah.

Staffa also testified that after she returned to New Jersey, Heidelberg hired her through a temporary agency "until they found a replacement in Atlanta."

During the Appeal Tribunal hearing, Staffa testified she received the initial determination that she was disqualified for benefits on November 14, 2007. When she was asked why she waited until November 26, 2007, to file her appeal, she explained:

Q: Okay. Now I have your appeal letter which is a type written letter. It's two pages. The date on that letter is November 19th and the appeal was not mailed out until the postmark date is November 26th. Why did you wait until November 26th to mail it out?

A: November 26th it was sent out?

Q: Yes.

A: You know what I had given it to my husband the next day and I asked him to send it out for me and he told me he sent it out right away.

Q: Okay. Well the postmark date on the envelope is November 26th. It wasn't mailed out until November 26th.

A: Nice.

Q: You have it to your husband to mail out.

A: Yeah.

Q: Is there any reason why you didn't mail it out yourself?

A: No. Well he was going on his way to the post office and I asked him to you know drop it off for me.

New Jersey's Unemployment Compensation Law, N.J.S.A. 43:21- 1 to -24.4, "protects not only workers who are involuntarily unemployed -- those who are laid-off or terminated from their jobs by their employers -- but also those who voluntarily quit their jobs for good cause attributable to their work." Utley v. Bd. of Review, 194 N.J. 534, 543-44 (2008). To establish that an employee voluntarily left employment for good cause attributable to the work, the employee must show that he or she did all that was "necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed." Heulitt v. Bd. of Review, 300 N.J. Super. 407, 414 (App. Div. 1997) (quoted with approval in Utley, supra, 194 N.J. at 549, and Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 214 (1997)).

This is a fact sensitive test. Utley, supra, 194 N.J. at 550. But in this case it is clear that Staffa enjoyed an excellent relationship with her former employer, and her reason for resigning was not work-related, but personal. Accordingly, Staffa was not entitled to the unemployment benefits she received.

We also affirm the order entered by the Board of Review on March 14, 2008, dismissing Staffa's administrative appeal because it was untimely. N.J.S.A. 43:21-6(b)(1) requires the filing of an appeal from an initial determination by a deputy director within ten days of mailing of the notice or within seven days of delivery. Late filing can be excused only upon a showing of good cause, which is defined as "circumstances beyond the control of the appellant" or "circumstances which could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented." N.J.A.C. 12:20- 4.1(h). In the present matter, the record does not demonstrate good cause for failing to file the appeal on time.

Affirmed.

20091202

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