JUNE G. VALENT, Appellant,
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR and HACKETTSTOWN COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, Respondents
Submitted September 18, 2013.
Approved for Publication June 5, 2014.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 321,223.
June G. Valent, 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.).
Hackettstown Community Hospital has not filed a brief.
Before Judges FUENTES, SIMONELLI and HAAS.
[436 N.J.Super. 43] FUENTES, P.J.A.D.
June G. Valent appeals from the decision of the Board of Review denying her application for unemployment compensation benefits. The Board found appellant was not entitled to unemployment benefits from January 2, 2011 to February 26, 2011, because her employer established she engaged in what the Board characterized as " simple misconduct connected to the work" under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(b). We reverse. Appellant's employer did not prove appellant committed misconduct by refusing to submit to the flu vaccination policy for purely secular reasons. The Board's decision upholding appellant's termination unconstitutionally discriminated against appellant's freedom of expression by improperly endorsing the employer's religion-based exemption to the flu vaccination policy and rejecting the secular choice proffered by appellant.
The facts underlying this appeal are undisputed. Appellant was a registered nurse employed by Hackettstown Community Hospital (HCH). She started working as a nurse at HCH on a full-time basis on May 11, 2009. Effective September 21, 2010, Adventist Health Care, Inc., the corporate
owners of HCH, issued a policy in its " Corporate Policy Manual" titled " Health Care Worker Flu Prevention Plan." The purpose of the policy was to enhance " health care worker vaccination rates and prevent the spread of the flu during the flu season or pandemic, to patients, residents, [healthcare workers] and their families, as well as the community."
Participation with the flu vaccination directive was mandatory
unless there [was] a documented medical or religious exemption. For those with an exemption, a declination form must be signed and accompanied with an appropriate note each year. In addition, regardless of where [employees] work, for those who must decline the flu vaccine, it will be mandatory to properly wear a facemask (available at the facility) during the entire flu season, to be determined by [employer] based on [Center for Disease Control] ...