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Joann Lane v. Board of Review

July 27, 2011

JOANN LANE, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND STEPHAN T. MASHEL,*FN1 RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 252,611.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 12, 2011

Before Judges Payne and Hayden.

Claimant, Joann Lane, appeals from a determination by the Board of Review to reject her application for unemployment benefits, affirming the determination of the Appeal Tribunal that Lane had not demonstrated that her termination was imminent or "demonstrated that the working conditions were so severe that [they] supported her leaving with good cause attributable to her work." The Board thus concluded that Lane had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work and was disqualified for benefits as of August 30, 2009, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).

I.

Before the Appeal Tribunal, Lane argued that from July 2003 until August 28, 2009, she worked for Stephan Mashel, nominally as a paralegal, but that her work was more properly categorized as that of an associate attorney in the field of employment law. She earned a salary of $70,000 per year plus medical benefits. Lane claimed that, throughout the six years of her employment with Mashel, she was subjected to his constant criticism, and that he objected to her writing style and claimed that she had failed to progress during the course of her employment with him.

Although she could give no specific instances of his conduct, Lane testified that after she gave an assignment to Mashel, she could hear him in the next room muttering, engaging in angry outbursts, and moving things around on his desk. She assumed that his conduct was a reaction to her work. As she testified: "He would be at his desk, ranting, raving, muttering under his breath, slamming things on the desk and I'm in the other room listening to this knowing that he's reviewing something and feeling completely you know worthless for all the work that I did for this man and I drafted everything that went out of that office."

Lane also claimed that Mashel questioned her legal analysis in a hostile fashion, and that she frequently was called upon to justify it with applicable precedent. Further, "[h]e was completely frustrated because [she] didn't write like he wrote." Lane testified: "I don't know all the details of everything that he used to say . . . [b]ecause he muttered under his breath all the time. He would call me in there and fight with me about a position I took." "He didn't like the angle that I took on an argument. He didn't agree with the case that I cited and the argument that I came up with."

Lane complained about Mashel's facial expressions, especially in the last six months of her employment. She stated that "[h]e was like grinding his teeth at me" and he "[l]ook[ed] at me like he wanted to hit me."

As a further matter, Lane claimed that Mashel focused his ill temper on her, and that he did not behave in a similar fashion in his interactions with his associate or with a college student who was hired during the summer as a receptionist.

Two days before Lane left her employment, she confronted Mashel regarding his conduct, and he apologized and stated that he got very frustrated by Lane's writing, which had not progressed in the six years of her employment. Lane replied that she was writing to the best of her ability, and that if Mashel was unhappy, he should terminate her employment. He did not do so, but instead stated that he would attempt not to react as had been his custom. However, Lane did not believe that his conduct would change.

Before leaving work that evening, Lane checked Mashel's calendar and discovered that he had scheduled interviews with prospective associates for the following evening. As she had one year before when Mashel hired his first associate, Lane believed that she was to be replaced, figuring that Mashel could not afford to pay her salary as well as that of two associates. However, she did not seek to confirm that fact ...


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