On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 267,535.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Messano.
Latashya Daniels, formerly an employee of the Arc of Passaic and Bergen County (Arc), appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review of the Department of Labor (the Board). The Board concluded that Daniels left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to her work, N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), and it affirmed the Appeal Tribunal's denial of her claim for benefits under the unemployment compensation law, N.J.S.A. 43:21-1 to -71. We affirm.
Daniels was employed by Arc from November 27, 2008, through December 28, 2009, as a day counselor in a group home. During a telephonic hearing on March 25, 2010, Daniels testified that she worked from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. According to Daniels, she requested a transfer from the day shift to the night shift because she "didn't want to be in that field anymore" and "wanted to go back to school."
Daniels testified that she usually attended school until 4:00 p.m., so she was no longer available to work the day shift at Arc. In addition, her employer denied her request for a transfer because the night shift began at 4:00 p.m., and "it didn't work with her schedule."
In a decision dated March 26, 2010, the Appeal Tribunal found that Daniels was disqualified for benefits from December 27, 2009, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work:
In this case, the claimant initiated the severing of the employer/employee relationship when she was no longer able to work the hours she was hired to work because she wanted to attend school full time. The claimant leaving her job to attend school is a personal reason and not connected with the work. Therefore, it is considered that the claimant left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work . . . .
Daniels filed an administrative appeal and, on June 3, 2010, the Board agreed with and adopted the decision by the Appeal Tribunal. On appeal to this court, Daniels acknowledges that "she [chose] school over work" because her employer "didn't want to work around her schedule."
Our role in reviewing the decision of an administrative agency is limited. We will not upset the determination of an administrative agency absent a showing it was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, that it lacked fair support of the evidence, or that it violated legislative policies. In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999); Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210-11 (1997); In re Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 216 (1996); Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); Campbell v. Dep't. of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). Further, decisions by administrative agencies carry with them a strong presumption of reasonableness. City of Newark v. Natural Res. Council, 82 N.J. 530, 539, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 983, 101 S. Ct. 400, 66 L. Ed. 2d 245 (1980).
The burden of demonstrating that the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable rests upon the person challenging the administrative action. McGowan v. New Jersey State Parole Bd., 347 N.J. Super. 544, 563 (App. Div. 2002); Morgan v. Bd. of Review, 77 N.J. Super. 209, 213 (App. Div. 1962) ("The burden of proof is upon the claimant to establish that her voluntary separation from her employer was for good cause attributable to such work.").
In this case, the Board determined that Daniels was disqualified under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), which provides that a claimant may not receive benefits if he or she "has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work." Although the statute does not define "good cause," "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.'" Domenico v. Bd. of Review, 192 N.J. Super. 284, 287 (App. Div. 1983) (quoting Condo v. Bd. of Review, 158 N.J. Super. 172, 174 (App. Div. 1978)). In addition, the Court has stated:
The test of ordinary common sense and prudence must be utilized to determine whether an employee's decision to leave work constitutes good cause. Such cause must be compelled by real, substantial and reasonable circumstances not imaginary, trifling and whimsical ones. A claimant has the responsibility to do whatever is necessary and reasonable in order to ...