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Grichin v. Board of Review

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


October 7, 2010

ROSE A. GRICHIN, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND SMITHVILLE ALL PRO REALTORS, RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 206,973.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: September 29, 2010

Before Judges Cuff and Fasciale.

Claimant Rose A. Grichin appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review that disqualified her from receipt of unemployment benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Claimant argues she was terminated by her employer; the agency found she voluntarily quit her job. We affirm.

Grichin was employed as a receptionist/office coordinator at a real estate firm from January 28, 2008 through September 18, 2008. Two persons owned and operated the firm. In mid-September 2008, one of the owners was out-of-state on vacation. A dispute or misunderstanding arose in the office concerning the need for someone to replace claimant for two hours. The vacationing owner called the office and confronted claimant about the incident. Claimant testified the tone of the call was extremely unpleasant. We discern from the record that there had been other incidents in which the vacationing owner had engaged in angry exchanges with claimant and others in the firm.

Claimant spoke with the other owner. Claimant testified she did so with the expectation that the co-owner would be able to intercede with her partner and establish a more amicable atmosphere in the office. The co-owner testified that claimant informed her she could no longer work there and intended to quit her job. The co-owner also stated she asked claimant to stay at the agency, and certainly while claimant looked for another job. Claimant, however, informed the co-owner she intended to leave the job that day.

The Appeal Tribunal found that claimant left her work "because she could no longer tolerate her relationship with one of the co-owners." It also concluded that this reason is not sufficient cause to leave her employment. In doing so, the Appeal Tribunal noted the conflicting testimony presented by claimant and her employer, but considered the testimony of the co-owner more credible. It observed that the testimony of two co-workers corroborated the co-owner's testimony that claimant resigned.

The Board of Review adopted the findings of fact and disposition of the Appeal Tribunal, and affirmed the decision of the Appeal Tribunal. It is from this decision that claimant appeals.

N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) provides that a claimant is disqualified for benefits

[f]or the week in which the individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, and for each week thereafter until the individual becomes reemployed and works four weeks in employment . . . and has earned in employment at least six times the individual's weekly benefit rate. . . .

An employee who leaves work voluntarily has the burden of proving that she did so with good cause attributable to the work. Morgan v. Bd. of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962).

Since 1961, "good cause" for leaving work must be "attributable to such work." Stauhs v. Bd. of Review, 93 N.J. Super. 451, 457-58 (App. Div. 1967). See also Self v. Bd. of Review, 91 N.J. 453, 457 (1982). In Domenico v. Board of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 287 (App. Div. 1983), we stated that "[w]hile the statute does not define 'good cause,' our courts have construed the statute to mean 'cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed." We further stated:

In scrutinizing an employee's reason for leaving, the test is one of ordinary common sense and prudence. "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." The decision to leave employment must be compelled by real, substantial and reasonable circumstances not imaginary, trifling and whimsical ones. . . . [I]t is the employee's responsibility to do what is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed.

[Id. at 288 (internal citations omitted).]

The statutory scheme outlined by the Legislature envisions that unemployment compensation benefits be paid only to those individuals who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. Medwick v. Bd. of Review, 69 N.J. Super. 338, 340 (App. Div. 1961). The Board of Review is obligated to preserve the fund against the claims of those not intended to share in its benefits. Schock v. Bd. of Review, 89 N.J. Super. 118, 125 (App. Div. 1965), aff'd o.b., 48 N.J. 121 (1966).

A review of the record demonstrates a factual dispute whether claimant quit or was terminated by her employer. The agency resolved the factual dispute in favor of the employer. The findings of the Appeal Tribunal as adopted by the Board of Review are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. We will not reverse an agency decision that is supported by the record and is consistent with governing law. The August 5, 2009 decision of the Board of Review is affirmed.

Affirmed.

20101007

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