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Michael C. Casteel v. Board of Review and

March 16, 2012

MICHAEL C. CASTEEL, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 276,530.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 7, 2012

Before Judges J.N. Harris and Haas.

Appellant, Michael Casteel, appeals from an order of the Board of Review affirming a decision of the Appeal Tribunal that he was disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because he left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. We affirm.

Casteel was employed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) from March 2004 to October 30, 2009, when he resigned his position as a postal clerk to accept an early resignation package.

In a notice dated July 24, 2009, USPS advised Casteel of a possible reassignment from his postal clerk position at the Swedesboro, New Jersey facility. The written notice he received stated that "action may result in your involuntary reassignment outside the craft in the same installation; outside the installation, in the same craft; or outside of the craft and outside of your present location."*fn1

In September 2009, USPS sent Casteel a letter stating that the Swedesboro facility would be closing in either October or November 2010. He received a second letter stating that, when the facility closed, he would have to bid for "residual vacancies in the Clerk, Mail Handler Craft" within a 500 mile radius of Swedesboro. Casteel also read a newspaper account that indicated that his facility would be closing in March 2010, instead of later in the year.

In September 2009, USPS offered its employees a "financial incentive package" to leave their jobs voluntarily. As an incentive to resign or retire, the employees were offered $10,000, to be paid at the time they left employment, and an additional $5,000, to be paid in October 2010. The incentive package was only available until the end of October 2009.

Casteel accepted the early resignation package and resigned from USPS on October 30, 2009. He thereafter filed a claim for unemployment benefits effective January 31, 2010.

The Deputy Director disqualified Casteel from benefits, finding that he had left his work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Casteel appealed and the Appeal Tribunal affirmed, finding that Casteel's decision to accept the incentive package and to resign his position "was made at a time when [he] was guaranteed five more months of employment at his work location." The Appeal Tribunal further found that Casteel's decision to accept the "lump sum pay out, while certainly a significant financial gain for [him], was personal in nature, unrelated to an imminent job elimination." Therefore, the Appeal Tribunal held that Casteel was disqualified for benefits because he had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work.

Casteel appealed to the Board of Review, which affirmed on the basis of the record developed before the Appeal Tribunal. This appeal followed.

Before us, Casteel contends that his resignation was involuntary because the Swedesboro facility was going to close sometime within the next year. Therefore, he argues that he was compelled to leave when he did. We disagree.

Our review of an administrative agency decision is limited. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). "'[I]n reviewing the factual findings made in an unemployment compensation proceeding, the test is not whether [we] would come to the same conclusion if the original determination was [ours] to make, but rather whether the factfinder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs.'" Ibid. (quoting Charatan v. Bd. of Review, 200 N.J. Super. 74, 79 (App. Div. 1985)). "If the Board's factual findings are supported ...


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