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Irene A. Lamotta v. Board of Review and Med-Care of Fairfield


March 31, 2011


On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 246,016.

Per curiam.


Submitted: March 16, 2011

Before Judges Cuff and Fasciale.

Irene LaMotta appeals from a final administrative order and decision of the Board of Review (the Board) denying her unemployment benefits because she left her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to her employment. We affirm.

LaMotta worked for Med-Care of Fairfield, Inc., as a medical secretary for approximately twelve years. On July 7, 2009, LaMotta voluntarily left her position after a non-supervising physician pointed his finger and yelled at her when she attempted to obtain insurance information from him. Two days after she quit, LaMotta realized that she acted impulsively and unsuccessfully attempted to regain her position.

LaMotta filed a claim for unemployment benefits on July 19, 2009. Her claim was denied and LaMotta appealed to the Appeal Tribunal. The Appeal Tribunal affirmed the denial of unemployment benefits, explaining that LaMotta was not entitled to unemployment benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The statute states in pertinent part:

An individual shall be disqualified for benefits:

(a) For 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 . . . . [N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).]

The term "good cause" is defined 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 . . . ." Domenico v. Bd. of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 288 (App. Div. 1983) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Appeal Tribunal concluded that LaMotta left her employment without good cause because she immediately left and "took away the employer's opportunity to address both parties' concerns to an equitable resolution." The Board affirmed.

On appeal, LaMotta argues that she is entitled to unemployment benefits because her work environment negatively affected her mental health and she was harassed verbally.

The role of this court in reviewing an administrative agency's final determination is exceedingly limited. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999).

The scope of review of an administrative decision is the same as that for an appeal in any non[-]jury case, i.e., whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record considering the proofs as a whole, with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge of their credibility. [Ibid. (internal quotations and citations omitted).]

An appellate court is not permitted to "'engage in an independent assessment of the evidence as if it were the court of first instance.'" Ibid. (quoting State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 471 (1999)). If, in reviewing the agency's decision, this court finds sufficient credible evidence in the record and the inferences to be drawn therefrom, it must uphold the agency's decision even if the court would have reached a different result. Campbell v. N.J. Racing Comm'n, 169 N.J. 579, 587 (2001); In re Taylor, supra, 158 N.J. at 657.

Therefore, this court will only disturb a final agency determination if it concludes that the decision was arbitrary and capricious. In re Holy Name Hosp., 301 N.J. Super. 282, 295 (App. Div. 1997) (citing Worthington v. Fauver, 88 N.J. 183, 204 (1982)). "'Arbitrary and capricious action of administrative bodies means willful and unreasoning action, without consideration and in disregard of circumstances.'" Ibid. (quoting Bayshore Sewerage Co. v. Dep't Envtl. Prot., 122 N.J. Super. 184, 199 (Ch. Div. 1973), aff'd, 131 N.J. Super. 37 (App. Div. 1974)). There is a strong presumption of an agency's reasonableness. In re Holy Name Hosp., supra, 301 N.J. Super. at 295. The burden of showing that an agency determination was arbitrary and capricious is on the party challenging it. Ibid.

We find that the Board's decision was reasonable, and see no basis for disturbing it. We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the Board in its thoughtful and detailed written opinion dated October 5, 2009. We add the following brief comments.

The Board found correctly, by substantial, credible evidence, that LaMotta was ineligible for unemployment benefits. LaMotta failed to attribute her alleged medical condition to her employment and never stated that her medical condition was a reason for leaving. Nothing in the record indicates that her working environment harmed her health or was abnormal. Furthermore, she admitted that she acted impulsively by quitting without attempting to resolve her employment issues. Therefore, the Board did not act arbitrarily or capriciously, but rather found by substantial, credible evidence that LaMotta left her employment merely because she was dissatisfied with her job. Dissatisfaction is not "good cause."

After a thorough review of the record and consideration of the controlling legal principles, we conclude that LaMotta's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant extended discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).



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