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Casperino v. Board of Review


June 4, 2010


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 216,510.

Per curiam.


Submitted May 11, 2010

Before Judges Parrillo and Lihotz.

Claimant, Audrey J. Casperino, appeals from a final determination of the Board of Review (Board) affirming the Appeal Tribunal's decision denying her claim for unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) for having left work voluntarily, without good cause attributable to the work. We affirm.

Claimant was employed as a cashier and cafeteria worker for respondent Aramark Schools, Inc., (Aramark) at School 11 in Clifton from February 1, 1996, to November 3, 2008. As part of her job duties, claimant served breakfast to twenty to forty children in the school's breakfast program. On Monday, September 29, 2008, she gave notice of her resignation due to a change in her work load.

Three days earlier, on September 26, Ann Stein, Aramark's Food Service Director at School 11, had attended a meeting during which she was advised that children from the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton would be added to the breakfast program at School 2, and possibly at School 11 also. Before Stein was advised of any final official decision as to School 11, on the following Monday, September 29, a nine-year old boy from the Boys and Girls Club came into the cafeteria at School 11 for breakfast. Unaware of the addition, claimant seated the boy and served him breakfast, but immediately thereafter complained to Stein, who apologized to claimant for not giving her notice and explained that she herself had not been aware that an official decision had been made to add more children to the breakfast program. Later that day when Stein arrived at the school, claimant tendered her resignation, complaining: "[T]his is my two weeks notice because I've had it. There's no communication, the jobs were more and more and no one helped to fix them." Claimant's resignation surprised Stein, who considered claimant a great employee. Claimant remained in her position for five weeks, until November 4, 2008, to help train her replacement.

In denying the claim for unemployment benefits, the Deputy to the Director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance found claimant disqualified for benefits because she "voluntarily left [her] job because [she was] dissatisfied with the working conditions" and "[t]here is no evidence that the conditions of [her] employment were so severe as to cause [her] to leave available work to become unemployed." The Appeal Tribunal affirmed this determination, finding "[t]he employer's testimony is competent, credible" and that claimant's "reason for leaving, stress from an increase in work duties that day[,] was not compelling." While the Appeal Tribunal said that respondent may have "used poor judgment in failing to notify . . . claimant of the increase in her work duties for just one day, this is not so compelling for the claimant to leave available work to become unemployed." Moreover, the Appeal Tribunal found that claimant "did nothing to resolve her job dissatisfaction, and got distraught over a simple matter that could have been easily resolved" and that "[h]er job was not in jeopardy." The Board affirmed this decision, which, on appeal, claimant argues is erroneous.

Our scope of review of an agency decision is limited. Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). In challenging the agency's conclusion, claimant carries a substantial burden of persuasion, and the determination by the administrative agency carries a presumption of correctness. Gloucester County Welfare Bd. v. State Civil Serv. Comm'n, 93 N.J. 384, 390-91 (1983). We also accord substantial deference to the agency's interpretation of the statute it is charged with enforcing. Bd. of Educ. of Neptune v. Neptune Twp. Educ. Ass'n., 144 N.J. 16, 31 (1996). We will overturn an agency determination only if it is found to be arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole, or inconsistent with the enabling statute or legislative policy. Barry v. Arrow Pontiac, Inc., 100 N.J. 57, 71 (1985) (quoting Gloucester County Welfare Bd., supra, 93 N.J. at 391); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); N.J. Guild of Hearing Aid Dispensers v. Long, 75 N.J. 544, 562-63 (1978).

Applying these principles, we are in accord with the Board's decision denying claimant benefits. The governing statute, N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), provides that an individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits where that "individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work[.]" In order to avoid disqualification, the claimant has the burden to establish that she left work for good cause attributable to the work. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 218 (1997). "Good cause means 'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed,' and the reasons for terminating employment 'must meet the test of ordinary common sense and prudence.'" Heulitt v. Bd. of Review, 300 N.J. Super. 407, 414 (App. Div. 1997) (internal citations omitted). "Good cause" is defined in the regulation as "a reason related directly to the individual's employment, which was so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment." N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b). "'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.'" Domenico v. Bd. of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 288 (App. Div. 1983) (quoting Medwick v. Review Bd., 69 N.J. Super. 338, 345 (App. Div. 1961)).

Here, as found by the Appeal Tribunal, claimant left work due to stress from the perceived increase in job duties on this one occasion. Yet, there is no proof that such an increase rendered the work unsuitable, abnormal, or unhealthy. On the contrary, claimant's reason for leaving employment amounts to no more than mere dissatisfaction with her working conditions, see, e.g., Self v. Bd. of Review, 91 N.J. 453, 460 (1982); Roche v. Bd. of Review, 156 N.J. Super. 63, 65 (App. Div. 1978), and thus, did not constitute "good cause" for having resigned.

The Board's decision finding claimant disqualified from unemployment benefits was "supported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole." Barry, supra, 100 N.J. at 71 (citation omitted). We discern no basis to disturb the Board's determination.



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