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Kenneth W. Redheffer v. Board of Review and Laidlaw Transit Management

June 29, 2012

KENNETH W. REDHEFFER, APPELLANT,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW AND LAIDLAW TRANSIT MANAGEMENT, RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 279,549.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 12, 2012

Before Judges Axelrad and Parrillo.

Claimant Kenneth W. Redheffer appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review 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.

Claimant was hired by respondent Laidlaw Transit Management (Laidlaw) as a school bus driver in January 2000, a position that required he possess a Class B driver's license. He lost his job on March 16, 2010, after his Class B driver's license was suspended due to a then pending indictment charging him with third-degree theft by deception, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4, and fourth-degree unsworn falsification to authorities, N.J.S.A. 2C:28-3a, based on allegations that claimant collected $29,669 in unemployment benefits between December 29, 2001 and June 19, 2004 while employed by Laidlaw.*fn1

Claimant filed a claim for unemployment benefits, which was denied by the deputy director of the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance, who reasoned:

You left work voluntarily on 3/16/10. You were employed in a position which required a valid driver's license as a prerequisite of employment. Your position was solely dependent on possession of this license. employment ended when you lost this license for committing a voluntary act. You were aware that your actions could jeopardize your license. Therefore, your separation is considered to be a voluntary quit without good cause attributable to the work. You are disqualified for benefits.

Claimant appealed to the Appeal Tribunal, which, after a hearing on May 18, 2010, affirmed the deputy's determination, relying on Yardville Supply Company v. Board of Review, Department of Labor, 114 N.J. 371 (1989). Claimant then appealed to the Board of Review (Board), which affirmed the Tribunal's decision. Claimant now challenges the Board's decision as erroneous.

Our scope of review of an agency decision is limited. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). In challenging the agency's conclusion, claimant carries a substantial burden of persuasion, and the determination by the administrative agency carries a presumption of correctness. Gloucester Cnty. Welfare Bd. v. State Civil Serv. Comm'n, 93 N.J. 384, 390-91 (1983). We also accord substantial deference to the interpretation given by the agency to the statute it is charged with enforcing. Bd. of Educ. of Neptune v. Neptune Twp. Educ. Ass'n, 144 N.J. 16, 31 (1996). We will overturn an agency determination only if it is found to be arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unsupported by substantial credible evidence in the record as a whole, or inconsistent with the enabling statute or legislative policy. Barry v. Arrow Pontiac, Inc., 100 N.J. 57, 71 (1985); Gloucester Cnty. Welfare Bd., supra, 93 N.J. at 391; Henry v. Rahway State Prison, 81 N.J. 571, 579-80 (1980); N.J. Guild of Hearing Aid Dispensers v. Long, 75 N.J. 544, 562-63 (1978).

The governing statute, N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), provides that an individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits where that individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work. In order to avoid disqualification, the claimant has the burden to establish that he left work for good cause attributable to the work. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 218. Good cause means "cause sufficient to justify an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed[,]" id. at 214 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), and the reasons for terminating employment "must meet the test of ordinary common sense and prudence." Heulitt v. Bd. of Review, 300 N.J. Super. 407, 414 (App. Div. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

In Yardville, supra, the Court held that a truck driver, who lost his job because his driver's license was suspended for six months following his conviction on a non-work related charge of driving while intoxicated, left work without good cause pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), and was therefore disqualified for unemployment benefits. 114 N.J. at 374-75. In rejecting the claim, the Yardville Court, citing its prior decision in Self v. Board of Review, 91 N.J. 453 (1982) held:

Where it is reasonably foreseeable that an employee's voluntary conduct will render him unemployable, and his actions actually do lead to the loss of a prerequisite of employment, the employee leaves work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). A driver's license is a prerequisite of employment for those, such as Sparks, who drive for a living. Nevertheless, Sparks jeopardized his license by engaging in a foolish, voluntary act. As such, he cannot claim to be the sort of "involuntarily unemployed" individual that the Unemployment Compensation Act is designed to protect. [Id. at 377 (footnote omitted).]

Consistent with the Yardville holding, N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.10(a) defines what constitutes a voluntary quit under N.J.S.A. ...


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