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Cottman v. Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

March 29, 2018

TAMYRA L. COTTMAN, Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, and QUALITY MANAGEMENT COMPANY, Respondents.

          Submitted February 12, 2018

         On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Docket No. 101, 930.

          Tamyra L. Cottman, appellant pro se.

          Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General, attorney for respondent Board of Review (Jason W. Rockwell, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Jessica M. Saxon, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

          Respondent Quality Management Company has not filed a brief.

          Before Judges Sabatino, Ostrer and Whipple.

          OPINION

          OSTRER, J.A.D.

         Tamyra L. Cottman appeals from a November 23, 2016 Board of Review order, affirming the Appeal Tribunal's decision denying her unemployment benefits. The Tribunal found that Cottman voluntarily quit her job without good cause related to the work. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). We reverse.

         Cottman quit after her child care arrangements fell through. She had been working as a residential counselor at a group home for Quality Management Associates, Inc., since April 1, 2016. She worked overnight from 11:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., Saturday through Tuesday. Before her shift started on August 24, 2016, Cottman's babysitter unexpectedly quit. Cottman has three children, all with special needs. She testified that the eldest, who was thirteen at the time, was not responsible enough to care for the other two.

         She explained that her employer's policy required her to find a fellow employee to cover her shift, if she could not come in. She tried calling everyone on her contact list, but no one was available.

         Cottman testified that she spoke to her supervisor, who threatened she might be fired if she did not come in. Cottman testified, "I was like I might just (inaudible) and [the supervisor] was like well we [sic] just getting off probation. It's either you can come in or you might be fired. I wouldn't play with your time." Avoiding termination, Cottman chose to resign. The employer's representative did not dispute Cottman's version of the conversation. Indeed, she did not address it at all.

         Cottman thereafter applied for unemployment benefits. The deputy denied her application, finding she was disqualified because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to her work. The Tribunal affirmed on the same ground, citing N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a), as well as N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(e)(2), which expressly provides that voluntarily leaving work for the purpose of caring for children is not good cause. The Board affirmed the Tribunal's decision without additional reasoning.

         In her appeal, Cottman contends she was forced to quit her job, because she could not leave her children unattended during her August 24 shift, and her supervisor told her she might be fired if she did not come in.

         We deferentially review the Board's decision, but shall reverse if it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, or lacks the support of sufficient credible evidence. Brady v. Bd. of Review,152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). With few exceptions, leaving work for personal reasons unrelated to the work, no matter how reasonable, disqualifies an employee from receiving unemployment benefits. See N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) (disqualifying an individual who "has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work");[1]Utley v. Bd. of Review, 194 N.J. 534, 544 (2008) (stating that if an individual leaves "for personal ...


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