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Barnett v. Board of Review

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 5, 2013

NIA M. BARNETT, Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, MERIT MOUNTAINSIDE HOSPITAL, and UNIVERSITY OF MEDICINE AND DENTISTRY, Respondents.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 22, 2013.

On appeal from a the Board of Review, Department of labor.

Nia M. Barnett, appellant, pro se.

Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Christopher M. Kurek, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Respondents Merit Mountainside Hospital and University of Medicine and Dentistry have not filed briefs.

Before Judges Graves and Ashrafi.

PER CURIAM.

Claimant Nia M. Barnett appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, denying her claim for unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm.

Barnett worked as a habilitation counselor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) from March 2004 until she submitted a letter of resignation on March 11, 2010. She also worked part-time, on a per diem basis, as a hospital and emergency crisis counselor at Merit Mountainside Hospital. She left the part-time position in August 2010 to attend medical school in Aruba. A dialysis patient, Barnett experienced health issues in Aruba and could not continue in medical school there. She returned to New Jersey and applied for unemployment compensation benefits in October 2010.

On October 21, 2010, the deputy director denied her claim for benefits on the ground that she had left her positions voluntarily. She appealed that decision, claiming that she was forced to resign from the UMDNJ position because of a hostile work environment and that she left the Merit Mountainside position because there was not enough work. After a telephonic hearing, the Appeal Tribunal issued a decision on April 18, 2011, modifying but affirming the decision of the deputy director to deny the claim. The Appeal Tribunal cited three grounds for Barnett's disqualification: (1) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), because Barnett had left both positions voluntarily; (2) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(i), because she became a fulltime student in Aruba in September 2010 and was therefore not available to work while a student; and (3) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(c)(1), because she was not able to work and was not seeking employment from October 3, 2010, until April 9, 2011.

Barnett's further administrative appeal was denied by the Board of Review on November 9, 2011, and she filed this appeal before us.

Our standard of review is limited. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co. v. N.J. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 101 N.J. 95, 103 (1985). We will reverse a decision of an administrative agency only if it is contrary to law or arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210-11 (1997). "[I]f substantial credible evidence supports an agency's conclusion, a court may not substitute its own judgment for the agency's even though the court might have reached a different result." Greenwood v. State Police Training Ctr., 127 N.J. 500, 513 (1992); see also Mullarney v. Bd. of Review, 343 N.J.Super. 401, 406 (App. Div. 2001) (scope of appellate review in appeal from denial of unemployment benefits). We conclude the Board of Review's decision was not contrary to law or arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.

N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) disqualifies a claimant from receiving benefits if the claimant "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work, " until after the claimant has become re-employed and worked for a minimum time period. Regulations of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development state that the claimant has the burden of proving she did not leave work voluntarily or she had good ...


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