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Jennifer Moore v. Board of Review and Phillips & Cohen Associates

February 22, 2011


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 227,630.

Per curiam.


Submitted February 3, 2011 - Decided Before Judges Payne and Baxter.

Jennifer Moore appeals from the November 30, 2009 final agency decision of the Board of Review (Board), which found that Moore was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to her employment. We affirm.


In November 1999, Moore was hired by Phillips & Cohen Associates to collect unpaid credit card balances by telephoning the cardholder. According to Moore, for nearly ten years, she "never had any issues" with her employer or with her supervisor and had "received several awards and recognitions for how well [she] did at [her] job." Moore claimed that her work environment took a noticeable turn for the worse toward the middle of January 2009 when she was transferred to a different collections group, headed by Mecca Hyman. According to Moore, Hyman questioned her every move, "hovering over [her] constantly, asking [her] why [she] wasn't making [Hyman] any money." Moore maintained that Hyman criticized her excessively and instructed other employees not to help Moore or answer Moore's telephone. If Moore left her desk to use the restroom, Hyman "would ask [her] why . . . did [she] get up to use the restroom." Moore also asserted that Hyman falsely accused her of making too many personal phone calls during the "prime" collection hours of 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and also asserted that Hyman "yell[ed]" at her in front of her co-workers "literally every day."

According to Moore, two incidents during the week of February 13, 2009 "pushed [her] over the edge," leading her to send a letter on February 23, 2009 to a company vice president, Ross Enders, asking to be transferred out of Hyman's group. The first of those incidents occurred when Moore received an emergency phone call from her mother, over whom she had a power of attorney. When Hyman complained to Moore that she should not be on the telephone during "prime time," and Moore tried to explain her mother's "mental condition," Hyman said she did not care and "screamed at [Moore] in front of everybody."

The second incident involved Hyman "asking [Moore] to do unethical things on the telephone with the people that [the company] collected money from," such as telling debtors that their relatives had the ability to pay the credit card account, and if the relatives did not do so, the credit card company would pursue the relative for the debt. According to Moore, Hyman even offered to put a device known as an "umbrella" on Moore's telephone line so that her calls to debtors using that debt collection technique could not be recorded. When Moore told Hyman she "didn't want any part of that" because "[t]hat's not how you collect money from people," Hyman backed off and simply said, "it's there if you want it, and she [,Hyman,] would allow other people to do it" if they wished.

Shortly after Enders received Moore's letter asking for a transfer to a different group, he called her and said her complaints "were not even relevant," and she could come back to work, but he refused to switch her out of Hyman's group. After receiving Enders's response, Moore resigned. At the time of her resignation, she had been working in Hyman's unit for approximately one month.

Moore thereafter filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits. On April 15, 2009, a deputy claims examiner notified Moore that she was disqualified for benefits because there was "no evidence that the conditions of [her] employment were so severe as to cause [her] to leave [her] work and become unemployed." Therefore, according to the deputy, Moore had not established that her resignation was for "good cause attributable to the work." After filing an appeal of the adverse decision, Moore participated in a telephonic hearing before the Appeal Tribunal on July 23, 2009.

At the hearing, Hyman described her working relationship with Moore as "fine" with no "flare ups" or "heated moments." Hyman explained that Moore had never approached her with concerns about how Hyman was treating her or about the nature of the work. She denied screaming at Moore in front of Moore's co-workers on a daily basis, asserting "nothing happened." Hyman stated, "I don't know why she would feel she was being yelled at. I speak with the same tone to everyone . . . . [I needed] to repeat things to her numerous times" because her job performance was not satisfactory. When asked to elaborate, Hyman responded that Moore demonstrated "a lack of work effort."

Hyman explained that when she spoke to Moore about her performance and asked Moore to "pick up her efforts" so as to meet the company's expectations, Moore did not respond well. Hyman testified:

She didn't take it at all well. . . .

[S]he did not bring me her monthly number and obviously, the reason, part of that was because she was not doing the necessary steps to get the job completed on a daily basis. Meaning, her calls were low, she was, you know, taking several unauthorized breaks when she should have been making calls, and these are the things that I had always approached her on. . . . I . . . communicated with her about . . . better ways that she ...

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