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Rooth v. Board of Review

February 25, 2010

JENNIE ANNE ROOTH, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEPARTMENT OF JUDICIARY, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 199,343.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 25, 2010

Before Judges Lisa and Baxter.

Appellant, Jennie Anne Rooth, appeals from the December 23, 2008 final decision of the Board of Review (Board), which affirmed the November 5, 2008 determination by the Appeal Tribunal that she was disqualified for benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Appellant argues that the record does not support the finding that she voluntarily left work. She contends she was terminated against her will. As part of her argument, she alleges discriminatory disparate treatment. We reject appellant's arguments and affirm.

Appellant was employed by the New Jersey State Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) as a disciplinary auditor financial specialist. This was a fulltime position. On June 20, 2008, appellant submitted a letter of resignation, which stated in its entirety: "It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation effective the close of business Friday, July 4, 2008." Although not expressed in her letter, appellant acknowledges that her reason for resigning was her intention to relocate to Florida. She had entered into a contract to purchase a residence there and had applied for a mortgage.

On June 24, 2008, appellant submitted another letter to the OAE, which stated in its entirety: "I am rescinding my resignation that was effective the close of business Friday, July 4, 2008." According to appellant, her reason for seeking to rescind her resignation was that, in light of her new status as being unemployed (or about to be unemployed), her mortgage application in Florida was in jeopardy.

Appellant met with her supervisors at the OAE. They declined to approve appellant's attempted rescission of her resignation. It was their position that as soon as appellant would be able to finalize her mortgage arrangements, she was going to leave and move to Florida. Therefore, they did not want to retain her on an indeterminate basis, but wanted to fill her position with a permanent employee.

As a negotiated accommodation, in order to provide appellant some financial remuneration during her transition, the supervisors agreed to allow her to work two more weeks until July 18, 2008, conditioned upon her submitting an "irrevocable" resignation letter effective that date. Appellant accepted the opportunity and on July 1, 2008 submitted a letter to the OAE which stated in its entirety: "As directed, my revised and 'irrevocable' resignation date will be the close of business Friday, July 18, 2008."

Appellant worked until July 18, 2008. She then applied for unemployment benefits, which were denied because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Appellant filed an administrative appeal. In her submission in support of the appeal, she acknowledged that after her last day of work on July 18, 2008 she did relocate to Florida. She apparently moved there very shortly after July 18, 2008. In that submission, appellant argued that she did not leave the OAE willingly on July 18, 2008, but was "effectively fired since [she] was denied the ability to retain [her] position." In support of her argument that she was wrongfully denied consent to rescind her resignation, she alleged that the OAE had a series of discrimination lawsuits pending and that the OAE had consistently reinstated male employees to the work force after they had resigned, naming five such individuals.

The Appeal Tribunal conducted an evidentiary hearing on October 23, 2008. Appellant testified, as did William Ruskowski, Chief of Investigations at the OAE. Appellant recounted the events and acknowledged that when she submitted her original resignation letter she was under no threat of termination. She did so voluntarily for the purpose of relocating to Florida. She contended, however, that when the success of her mortgage application appeared in doubt, she decided not to relocate to Florida and intended to stay in this area indefinitely. According to her, she explained this to her supervisors.

Ruskowski confirmed that appellant was under no threat of termination when she submitted her original resignation letter.

He insisted that appellant sought reinstatement on an indeterminate basis, only until she got her mortgage straightened out, at which time she would relocate to Florida. This was not acceptable to the OAE, which declined to accept appellant's attempted rescission of her resignation.

With respect to appellant's claim of discriminatory disparate treatment, she said that since she left, sometime in September 2008, one of her co-workers was in the same situation as she, namely he had resigned, and then changed his mind. Appellant said the OAE allowed this individual to be reinstated, notwithstanding that, according to appellant, "he had been looking to relocate." She provided no further details, nor did she provide any testimony about the allegations ...


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