December 10, 2012
ROSA CECILIA RODRIGUEZ, APPELLANT,
BOARD OF REVIEW AND JP MORGAN CHASE, RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 253,956.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 13, 2012
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and St. John.
Claimant, Rosa C. Rodriguez, appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board) disqualifying her from unemployment and requiring her to reimburse benefits paid totaling $6700 for the time period from June 14, 2009 through September 19, 2009. We affirm.
Rodriguez was employed by J.P. Morgan Chase (Chase). In August 2008, she filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the New Jersey Department of Labor based upon her separation from employment with Chase in March 2008. In April 2008, Rodriguez commenced part-time employment at St. Luke's Hospital in New York as an administrative assistant. When that position was eliminated, she was assigned to another position at the hospital, which proved too demanding physically. As a result, she left St Luke's Hospital in October 2008. Although she filed for unemployment benefits in New York, her claim was rejected after it was determined that she left her employment without good cause.
The Board determined that Rodriguez was eligible for benefits in New York as of June 14, 2009 and, consequently, further determined she was ineligible to receive the benefits she commenced collecting in New Jersey as of June 14, 2009 through September 5, 2009. The present appeal followed.
On appeal, Rodriguez claims: (1) her employment history in New York was insufficient to receive unemployment benefits from that state; (2) she was told by New York authorities to seek unemployment benefits from New Jersey, the state where she previously worked; (3) New Jersey confirmed she was eligible for additional weeks of extended benefits; and (4) the funds the Board seeks to recover should be used to offset the clerical error made by the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL).
The scope of our review of administrative agency action is limited and highly deferential. It is restricted to the following inquiries:
(1) whether the agency's decision offends the State or Federal Constitution; (2) whether the agency's action violates express or implied legislative policies; (3) whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the findings on which the agency based its action; and (4) whether in applying the legislative policies to the facts, the agency clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made on a showing of the relevant factors. [Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210-11 (1997).]
Essentially, so long as the Board's decision is supported by sufficient, credible evidence in the record and was neither "arbitrary, capricious, [nor] unreasonable," it will be affirmed. Ibid.
The benefits at issue here were not regular unemployment benefits but Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). Pursuant to 26 U.S.C.A. § 3304, EUC is made available to eligible individuals for additional weeks, provided the claimant has "no rights to regular compensation . . . under . . . any other State . . . or Federal law . . . . Post-9/11 Veterans Educ. Assistance Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 252, § 4001(b)(2), 122 Stat. 2323 (2008). Therefore, only those claimants who have exhausted all claims for regular state unemployment benefits are eligible to claim and receive EUC benefits. Although she received an initial denial of benefits for the requisite time period in New York, she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies in that state. As such, she was not entitled to receive EUC benefits through the NJDOL.
"In the case of individuals who have received amounts of emergency unemployment compensation . . . to which they were not entitled, the State shall require such individuals to repay the amounts of such emergency unemployment compensation to the State agency, . . ." Post-9/11 Veterans Educ. Assistance Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 252, § 4005(b), 122 Stat. 2323 (2008). New Jersey law similarly requires repayment of unemployment benefits from a claimant for whom there is later determination the claimant was not entitled to receive. N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d)(1). Repayment of such overpayments is also required where the payment of benefits is found to have resulted from administrative error, such as charged here. In Bannan v. Board of Review, we stated:
N.J.S.A. 43:21-16(d) requires the full repayment of unemployment benefits received by an individual who, for any reason, regardless of good faith, was not actually entitled to those benefits. The broad scope of the refund provision is rooted in and essential to the accomplishment of the basic purpose of the Unemployment Compensation Act. The eligibility and disqualification provisions of the unemployment law are designed to preserve the Unemployment Trust Fund for the payment of benefits to those individuals entitled to receive them. When reviewing unemployment appeals, the Board of Review is charged with the responsibility to serve not only the interest of the individual unemployed, but also the interests of the general public.
This court has recognized that the recovery of improperly paid unemployment compensation benefits furthers the purpose of the unemployment compensation laws. The public interest clearly is not served when the Unemployment Trust Fund is depleted by the failure to recoup benefits erroneously paid to an unentitled recipient, however blameless he or she may have been. [299 N.J. Super. 671, 674 (App. Div. 1997) (internal citations omitted).]
It is therefore clear that a person having improperly received benefits when not entitled to do so must repay those sums received. N.J.S.A. 43:21--16(d). Even if the claimant received the money in good faith, it must be paid back. See ibid.; see also Fischer v. Bd. of Review, 123 N.J. Super. 263, 266 (App. Div. 1973). In light of Rodriguez's disqualification for benefits effective June 20, 2009 through September 5, 2009, she is statutorily required to reimburse unemployment benefits she was not entitled to receive.
We are satisfied the Board's decision does not violate the State or Federal Constitution, is not contrary to express or implied legislative policies, and is supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record. Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210-11. We therefore find no basis to disturb the agency's decision.
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