On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 292,839.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and Yannotti.
Claimant Chester Paolini appeals from the October 5, 2010 final decision of the Board of Review (Board) finding him disqualified for unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) for having left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. We affirm.
Paolini commenced working for respondent Monarch Art Plastics Company (Monarch) in 1995 as a die cutter and was promoted to plant manager on October 29, 2008 at an annual salary of $53,600. According to Monarch's Chief Financial Officer, Ethan Messner, in February 2009, as part of a structural reorganization, Paolini was demoted to his previous position of die cutter at an hourly rate of pay of $23.65, resulting in a $3.00 per hour reduction in wages. According to Messner, Paolini was the "best" die cutter he had ever known and thus served the company best by returning to that position.
Paolini's new work hours, which were apparently changed to allow him to supervise newly hired die cutters, interfered with his ability to perform overtime work and thus make up his reduction in pay. According to Paolini, this circumstance was contrary to assurances given him by his manager, Michael Sytack, that he would be able to make up in overtime the reduction in wages resulting from his demotion.
Paolini first announced his resignation in a May 20, 2010 e-mail to Monarch owner Bill Shanley:
Hello Bill. I was hoping to catch up [with] you at work but things have been a little busy with the Mint. First of all, I'd like to thank you for our little talk last week.
The way you found out about me leaving Monarch was not the way I wanted to do this. I know there has been talk of me leaving for awhile now thru the shop, again after 18 years not the best ways to handle this. Monarch and you personally have been good to both Karen and myself. I do want to thank you for the opportunities afforded me at Monarch and I do believe I've given 100% to each. As I told you we will be moving to Florida where our daughter and family live. We have a matter that I hope you will understand. For the last few months Karen's health has not been the best. She beat cancer twice but now there's another issue. Her doctor will be putting her out on disability in the [next] couple of months. She is heavily medication for [a] nerves condition. Between the two bouts of cancer, all the surgeries, medication and other medical problems she [has] had[,] her nerves are shot. There is also depression and inability to sleep. We have also been through the court system the last couple of weeks to address someone harassing her. I need to get her away from the area and to family that will be there and help. All of this is the reason we will be moving, also our house has been sold and closing on July lst. With this information I was hoping you could help us with something. I have been training two die cutters on first shift and I will start training two from 3rd shift. Everyone should be well trained buy [sic] the end of June if not before. I was wandering [sic] if there's any way Monarch can give me a lay off as of June 30th. I have job prospects in Florida but may take another month or two before starting. I know this is an odd request but I need [to] make this move for my wife's health and our marriage. Bill thank you for your time.
All this might have been much harder to get out and express in person, so please forgive the e[-]mail. I would like to speak with you when you have time. Thank you again.
Sincerely[,] Chet Paolini.
Monarch interpreted Paolini's request for a "lay off" as his resignation. Messner responded to the e-mail, advising Paolini that Monarch is unable to lay off an employee at the employee's request to facilitate his eligibility for unemployment benefits. At the administrative hearing on Paolini's claim, Messner more fully explained that "layoffs are there if there is lack of work; currently we need him to perform his job. And we said if he needs to leave Monarch he must resign."
Consequently, Paolini resigned from his employment with Monarch and filed a claim for unemployment benefits on June 27, 2010. In a determination mailed July 21, 2010, a Deputy Director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance (Deputy Director) determined that Paolini was disqualified for benefits from June 27, 2010 for having left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work. Paolini appealed that decision to the Appeal Tribunal, which held a telephonic hearing at which Paolini acknowledged the accuracy of his May 20, 2010 e-mail, but added other reasons for his move to Florida. Paolini explained that he could no longer "afford to live [or "stay"] in the area" due to his reduction in pay and his wife taking disability leave, and therefore he and his wife decided to ...