January 5, 2011
RACQUEL O. ENGLISH, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR,
SAINT BARNABAS MEDICAL CENTER, AND ARC, MORRIS COUNTY CHAPTER N.J., RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 219,576.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 29, 2010 - Decided
Before Judges Lisa and Alvarez.
Claimant Racquel English appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review disqualifying her from unemployment and requiring her to reimburse benefits paid totaling $10,680 for the time period from April 13, 2008 through January 17, 2009. We affirm.
English was employed as a field instructor by the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) of Morris County from May 7, 2007, through September 3, 2007. She resigned from ARC in order to accept a job with Saint Barnabas Medical Center. As English testified during the course of her Appeal Tribunal hearing, she left ARC and went to work at Saint Barnabas because it was a better position. She reiterated in her appeal brief that Saint Barnabas offered her a position in her "chosen field" as a certified nurse's assistant, in contrast with her employment with ARC.
After three days of employment at Saint Barnabas, English became ill and was hospitalized for one week. Although she claimed that her physician placed her on disability for the rest of the year, no documentation was ever provided to that effect.
On February 19, 2009, the Director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance notified English that she was disqualified for benefits from September 2, 2007. The notice explained that she was disqualified because she left her employment voluntarily "to accept other employment," a "personal" reason not attributable to the work. English appealed and requested a hearing.
The Appeal Tribunal decision issued after hearing stated that English left ARC solely because of the offer of work she received from Saint Barnabas. The Appeal Tribunal found that after three days at her new position with Saint Barnabas, English became disabled and was advised that her position could not be held open for her. English was disqualified for benefits because she left ARC "voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work," and she did not "become reemployed and work four weeks in employment . . ." thereafter. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The Appeal Tribunal reiterated that the offer of a better position constitutes personal reasons for leaving a job, and is not "good cause." Therefore English had to refund payments advanced for the time period of April 19, 2008, through January 17, 2009, in accord with N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d) and N.J.A.C. 12:17-14.2.
English's sole basis for appeal is that the Board of Review erred in concluding that her voluntary resignation from ARC did not constitute good cause attributable to the work. The scope of our review of administrative agency action is limited and highly deferential. It is restricted to the following
(1) whether the agency's decision offends the State or Federal Constitution; (2) whether the agency's action violates express or implied legislative policies; (3) whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the findings on which the agency based its action; and (4) whether in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made on a showing of the relevant factors. [Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210-11 (1997).]
Essentially, so long as the Board's decision is supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record and was neither "arbitrary, capricious, [nor] unreasonable," it will be affirmed. Ibid.
N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) provides that an individual who leaves work "voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work," will be disqualified for benefits. This statutory disqualification applies 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 . . . ." N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Good cause does not include reasons which are "personal to a claimant." Rider College v. Bd. of Review, 167 N.J. Super. 42, 46 (App. Div. 1979). There is no doubt that English's reasons for leaving her position with ARC were personal to her. These reasons were not good cause within the meaning of the statute. See ibid.
English's employment with Saint Barnabas lasted only three days. This means that English remains disqualified until she becomes reemployed, works at least four weeks, and earns at least six times her weekly benefit rate. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). English did not work long enough at Saint Barnabas in order to be entitled to benefits payable on account of that job. Accordingly, the Board's decision finding her disqualified from benefits was clearly supported by sufficient credible evidence and was not "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210-11.
A person having received benefits when not entitled must repay those sums. N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d). Even if the claimant received the money in good faith, it must be paid back. See ibid.; see also Fischer v. Bd. of Review, 123 N.J. Super. 263, 266 (App. Div. 1973). In light of English's disqualification for benefits effective September 2, 2007, she is statutorily required to reimburse unemployment benefits she was not entitled to receive in the first place. This aspect of the order is also based on substantial credible evidence in the record and is not "arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210-11.
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