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Blake v. Board of Review

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 28, 2017

CYNTHIA M. BLAKE, Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, and LAUREL HEALTHCARE, LLC, Respondents.

          Submitted June 6, 2017

         On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 068, 871.

          South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., attorneys for appellant (Alan W. Lesso, on the briefs) .

          Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General, attorney for respondent Board of Review, Department of Labor (Melissa Dutton Schaffer, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Lauren J. Zarrillo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

          Respondent Laurel Healthcare, LLC has not filed a brief.

          Before Judges Messano, Suter and Grail.

          OPINION

          MESSANO, P.J.A.D.

         Nearly six decades ago, the Legislature amended New Jersey's Unemployment Compensation Law (the UCL), N.J.S.A. 43:21-1 to -56, disqualifying applicants from receiving unemployment benefits if they "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work." Yardville Supply Co. v. Bd. of Review, 114 N.J. 371, 374 (1989) (quoting N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)). "Accordingly, benefits are available to a worker who voluntarily leaves his job only if it [was] for 'good cause attributable to [the] work.'" Utley v. Bd. of Review, 194 N.J. 534, 544 (2008) (quoting N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)). A worker who leaves "for personal reasons, however compelling, ... is disqualified under the statute." Ibid.; see also Ardan v. Bd. of Review, 444 N.J.Super. 576, 585 (App. Div. 2016) ("An employee who leaves work for good, but personal, reasons is not deemed to have left work voluntarily with good cause."), certif. granted, 229 N.J. 135 (2017).

         The disqualification extends from the week the employee leaves work, "and for each week thereafter until [she] becomes reemployed . . . works eight weeks . . . and has earned ... at least ten times [her] weekly benefit rate." N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The current disqualification period represents an extension, from four to eight weeks and from six to ten times the benefit rate, which enactment coincided with changes to other provisions of the UCL intended to "reduce[] unemployment insurance (UI) tax rates" imposed on employers. L. 2010, c. 37, § 2; Senate Labor Comm., Statement to S. 1813 (May 10, 2010).

         This appeal requires us to construe the following language added to N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) in 2015, which provides the disqualification

shall not apply to an individual who voluntarily leaves work with one employer to accept from another employer employment which commences not more than seven days after the individual leaves employment with the first employer, if the employment with the second employer has weekly hours or pay not less than the hours or pay of the employment of the first employer, except that if the individual gives notice to the first employer that the individual will leave employment on a specified date and the first employer terminates the individual before that date, the seven-day period will commence from the specified date.
[N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), as amended by L. 2015, c. 41 § 1 (emphasis added).]

         In this case, Cynthia M. Blake provided her employer, Laurel Healthcare LLC (Laurel), with two weeks' notice that she was leaving her position to begin working for Alaris Healthcare (Alaris) at an increased hourly wage. Two days before she was to start, Alaris told Blake the position was no longer available. When Blake tried to rescind her resignation, Laurel informed her it no longer required her in a full-time capacity. The Deputy denied Blake's application for unemployment benefits because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a).[1]

         The Tribunal affirmed the Deputy's decision, reasoning the Amendment's exception applied only if Blake actually commenced her employment with Alaris. In its final decision, the Board of Review (the Board) agreed with the Tribunal's ...


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