October 18, 2013
CAROLINA LEAL DEHAQUIZ, Appellant,
BOARD OF REVIEW and TARGET CORPORATION OF MINNESOTA C/O TALX UC EXPRESS, Respondents.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 1, 2013
On appeal from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Board of Review, Docket No. 314, 670.
Carolina Leal Dehaquiz, appellant pro se.
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent Board of Review (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ellen A. Reichart, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Respondent Target Corporation of Minnesota has not filed a brief.
Before Judges Hayden and Rothstadt.
Carolina Leal Dehaquiz appeals from a final decision by the New Jersey Department of Labor ("Department"), Board of Review ("Board"), disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits, and requiring Dehaquiz to refund benefits paid to her, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to work. Dehaquiz argues that she should not be disqualified from receiving benefits because her employer did not transfer her to a new location when Dehaquiz moved out of state. Further, Dehaquiz argues that, even if she is disqualified from receiving benefits, she should not be forced to repay the amounts paid to her when she was disqualified because it would be a financial hardship. Neither argument, however, supports a basis for this Court to reverse the Board's determination. Accordingly, we affirm.
The facts relating to Dehaquiz's employment and her claim are not disputed. Target Corporation of Minnesota ("Target") employed Dehaquiz from January 29, 2007 to December 16, 2009, and then again from April 22, 2010, to November 2011 in various stores located in Texas, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In March 2009, while working in one of the New Jersey stores, Dehaquiz applied for unemployment benefits based on an involuntary reduction in her work hours. Pursuant to that application, she received benefits from April 2009 through March 2010.
Prior to the termination of her benefits, in December 2009, Dehaquiz requested a transfer from the Paramus, New Jersey store. At that time, she requested a transfer to any store near New Haven, Connecticut because she was about to get married and re-locate to that area with her new husband. Although she did not receive a response to her request for a transfer, Dehaquiz took a leave of absence from her position, got married, left her position at the Paramus store, and relocated to Connecticut. Evidently, Target did not give immediate attention to Dehaquiz's transfer request. From December 2009 through April 2010, Dehaquiz repeatedly contacted Target's human resource representative in the Paramus store as well as those in several stores in Connecticut trying to secure a transfer. It was not until April 22, 2010, that she finally secured a position in the North Haven, Connecticut store. She subsequently left her employment with Target in November 2011.
One year before she left Target's employment, on November 16, 2010, the Department notified Dehaquiz that it deemed her as being disqualified from receiving benefits as of December 6, 2009, because she left work for personal reasons. Dehaquiz filed an appeal of that determination to the Department's Appeal Tribunal An Appeals Examiner conducted a (telephonic) hearing on June 1 2011 and then issued an opinion on June 30 2011 denying her appeal
Dehaquiz then sought a review of the Appeal Tribunal's decision by the Board The Board issued its opinion on January 17 2012 affirming the Appeal Tribunal's determination but with slight modifications to the starting date of Dehaquiz's period of ineligibility and to the amount she owed as a refund As a result of those modifications the Board determined that Dehaquiz was ineligible for benefits as of December 13 2009 and liable for a refund to the Department in the amount of $4361 Dehaquiz then filed this appeal
Our review of administrative agency decisions is limited Brady v Bd of Review 152 N.J. 197 210 (1997) "If the Board's factual findings are supported 'by sufficient credible evidence courts are obliged to accept them'" Ibid (quoting Self v. Bd of Review 91 N.J. 453 459 (1982)) We will not disturb the Board's action unless it is "arbitrary capricious or unreasonable" Ibid
As noted in its decision the Board relied upon NJSA 43:21-5(a) which disqualifies a person for benefits
[f]or the week in which the individual has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work and for each week thereafter until the individual becomes re-employed and works eight weeks in employment and has earned in employment at least ten times the individual's weekly benefit rate
A claimant seeking unemployment compensation benefits has the burden of establishing that he or she left work for good cause attributable to such work and not voluntarily NJAC 12:17-91(c) An employee has left work "voluntarily" within the meaning of the statute "only if 'the decision whether to go or to stay lay at the time with the worker alone'"Lord v Bd of Review 425
N.J.Super. 187 191 (App Div 2 012) (quoting Campbell Soup Co v Bd of Review 13 N.J. 431 435 (1953)) "'[G]ood cause attributable to such work' means a reason related directly to the individual's employment which was so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment" NJAC 12:17-91(b) Causes personal to a claimant that are not shown to be attributable to the work itself do not satisfy the statutory requirement White v Bd of Review 146
N.J.Super. 268 270 (App Div 1977); Stauhs v Bd of Review 93 N.J.Super. 451 457-58 (App Div 1967)
If a Board properly determines that a claimant is not entitled to benefits she received she is required to repay those benefits NJSA 43:21-16(d)(1) The obligation to repay is unaffected by the good faith of the claimant Bannan v Bd of Review, 299 N.J.Super. 671, 674 (App. Div. 1997); see also Fischer v. Bd. of Review, 123 N.J.Super. 263, 266 (App. Div. 1973).
The Board's decision was legally correct, supported by undisputed facts and, therefore, not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Dehaquiz voluntarily left her employment with Target for personal reasons. The fact that Target didn't transfer her before she left did not deprive her of continued employment at the Paramus store. She could have remained employed and relocated a few months later or she could have, as she did, leave her job for personal reasons. Target had no involvement in Dehaquiz's decision to leave her job. Dehaquiz made a choice and the consequence is that she is legally obligated to repay the benefits to which she was never entitled in the first place, regardless of any financial hardship which that obligation creates.