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Condos v. Board of Review

July 28, 2010


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 218,948.

Per curiam.


Argued June 2, 2010

Before Judges Lihotz and Ashrafi.

Claimant George Condos appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board), affirming an appeal tribunal's (tribunal) determination that he was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits because he left work "voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work."

N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The tribunal also required claimant to refund all benefits previously paid. N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d)(1). Defendant argues he satisfactorily showed evidence of good cause for leaving his employment, which was attributable to the work. Following our examination of the arguments presented on appeal, in light of the record and the applicable law, we conclude the Board's final decision was properly premised upon facts in the record and is consonant with relevant statutory provisions. Accordingly, we affirm.

Claimant began working for American Bank Note Holographics, Incorporated (ABNH) as a temporary employee on February 3, 1999. Shortly thereafter, he and ABNH entered into a written agreement to employ him full-time as the corporate controller. In February 2008, ABNH was acquired by JDS Uniphase Corporation (JDSU). JDSU offered claimant a compensation package that included a $137,000 base salary, incentive bonuses of up to fifteen percent of his base salary, stock options, the title to his company car, health benefits, and a $30,000 retention bonus if he remained employed one year following the acquisition. Claimant accepted the offer and remained employed by JDSU until he resigned on June 27, 2008.

Claimant testified he worked an average of fifty hours per week at ABNH. After the merger, three of the five original employees left his department and were not replaced; yet, claimant remained responsible for completion of their work assignments. Claimant explained his workload doubled to an average of 70-80 hours per week in order "to complete all of the tasks that were transferred to him." Over the following three months, conflict developed with his immediate supervisor, Larry Sweet. Claimant told Sweet his workload was "impossible" to accomplish, he was exhausted and needed time off. He also had been working at home on Wednesdays, and was told that was not acceptable.

On June 17, 2008, claimant participated in a performance review. During that conference, he identified several issues implicating Sweet. These included that claimant had not received proper training and work-related goals, that JDSU paid too much for ABNH and when projected revenue decreased by fifty percent, Sweet, along with other co-workers, harassed and belittled him, that Sweet "badgered" him about his salary and liquidation of his JDSU stock options, and that Sweet suggested claimant had inflated his rating on his self-evaluation form, then admitted he had not read what claimant submitted, and stated claimant was not getting a raise. Claimant also learned that his former ABNH supervisor, Mark Bonny, who also worked for JDSU, had been complaining about him. He felt Sweet was "attacking him."

While driving home that evening, claimant stated "he felt like he was having a stroke." Later, he sent Sweet an email, resigning as of June 27, 2008, because "[he] had reached [his] limit." On the following work day, after he went to lunch, claimant was "locked out" of the building, and told he could leave immediately. Taking all of these issues together, claimant suggests it was impossible to accomplish his duties and continue working.

Later, Bonny asked him "what it would take to get him to stay," but claimant said he "had had enough." Bonny again asked claimant to stay with the company until August 3, 2008, but he declined.

Claimant filed for unemployment benefits and was initially determined to be eligible. JDSU appealed. In a telephonic hearing, an appeals examiner considered testimony from claimant and Susan Herbert, JDSU's Human Resources Business Partner.

Claimant expressed the reasons for his departure included the demand of too many hours of work and his difficulties with Sweet. Claimant admitted he had not presented his concerns or discussed his conflicts with Sweet to anyone of higher authority or the Human Resources Department, suggesting organizational distance impeded his ability to seek advice from his former supervisor, Bonny.

Claimant also identified, as a reason to leave JDSU, the discovery of illnesses attributable to stress. Claimant delineated he suffered from arthritis in his limbs, bursitis in his shoulder, high blood pressure, insomnia, high cholesterol, and diabetes -- all attributed to the stress of the job. Claimant had not sought time off to address any medical conditions and offered no verifying documentation from his treating ...

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