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Williams v. Board of Review

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 21, 2013



Submitted October 1, 2013

On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 336, 130.

Romone Williams, appellant pro se.

John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent Board of Review (Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Lisa N. Lackay, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Respondent Devereux Foundation has not filed a brief.

Before Judges Espinosa and Koblitz.


Romone Williams appeals from the January 23, 2012 final decision of the Board of Review holding him disqualified for unemployment benefits on the grounds that he left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to work based on the suspension of his driver's license, which was required to perform his job. We affirm.

Williams began working for the Devereux Foundation (Devereux) in February 2007. Devereux runs programs for developmentally disabled individuals throughout New Jersey. As a residential counselor, Williams was required to transport Devereux's clients to and from doctor's appointments, activities, day programs and vocational programs. A valid driver's license was a prerequisite to William's employment.

In July 2010 Devereux issued a revised policy and procedure manual that provided for an annual review of all employees' driving histories through a formal Motor Vehicle Review (MVR) and termination of employment for failure to pass the review. If an MVR revealed a currently suspended license or "12 Points or More[, ]" the revised policy deemed the employee to have failed the MVR. Employees were also required to report any motor vehicle offenses. The revised manual was mailed to all employees on August 10, 2010.

Devereux's March 2011 MVR revealed that Williams had a suspended license and eighteen points, although he had not reported any offenses. As a result, Williams was terminated from employment effective March 28, 2011. He appealed his initial denial of unemployment benefits to the Appeal Tribunal and a hearing was held on July 20, 2011. Two days later the Appeal Tribunal issued a decision holding Williams disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation, which was upheld by the Board.[1]

Our review of administrative agency decisions 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 'by sufficient credible evidence, [we] are obliged to accept them.'" Ibid. (quoting Self v. Bd. of Review, 91 N.J. 453, 459 (1982)). We also give due regard to the agency's credibility findings. Logan v. Bd. of Review, 299 N.J.Super. 346, 348 (App. Div. 1997). Unless the agency's action "was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, the agency's ruling should not be disturbed." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 210.

Williams argues on appeal that he may have been terminated for his poor performance, thus making him eligible for benefits. At the hearing, however, he testified under oath that he was terminated due to his loss of a valid driver's license. He also argues that he was not given thirty days to restore his license as were fellow employees. He also points out, although this is not a part of the record, that he reported his lack of license to his supervisor and never drove the clients when he did not have a valid license. Although somewhat mitigating, this information does not change the underlying fact that he lost his driver's license, which was a prerequisite for the job.

In a similar factual situation, our Supreme Court held that "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 the work pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)." Yardville Supply Co. v. Bd. of Review, 114 N.J. 371, 377 (1989).

N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) states in pertinent part:
An individual shall be disqualified for benefits:
(a) For 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 reemployed and works eight weeks in employment . . . .

The conclusion that the loss of a prerequisite license is considered a voluntary quit is further supported by N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.10(a), which states:

If an individual is discharged due to the loss of a prerequisite license which is necessary to perform the duties of his or her employment, such discharge shall subject the individual to disqualification for benefits for voluntarily leaving work if he or she engaged in an act which resulted in the loss of the license.

The Board did not act in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable fashion in denying benefits to Williams.


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