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Bivens v. Board of Review

A-0924-03T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION—It is an unemployment benefit claimant’s obligation to do whatever is reasonable and necessary in order to remain employed.

An employee resigned from her job and filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Deputy Director of the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance determined the employee to be eligible for benefits without disqualification. The employer appealed, and after a hearing, the Appeal Tribunal reversed, holding that the employee disqualified for benefits. The Board of Review affirmed the Tribunal’s decision.

At the time of her resignation, the employee was in a high level supervisory role. At the hearing, she testified that she told her employer that she was leaving because “things seem[ed] to be changing for [her]. Jobs are being taken away… [her] position and [her] obligation ... seem[ed] to be at a stand still.” She also claimed that she was told that the product line that she was working on was becoming obsolete. She admitted that she would not have resigned had her product line not been taken, and she admitted that she was told her job was secure and that neither her salary nor work hours were going to be changed. Her employer testified that she was an exemplary employee, heavily relied upon because of her experience and people skills. According to the employer, its employee had expressed a desire to relocate because her family was not in the area. In fact, less than three months after her resignation, she relocated to another state. For those reasons, the Appeal Tribunal disqualified the woman for benefits, finding that she had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work.

In her appeal, the Appellate Division, the employee claimed that her supervisory and managerial abilities were slowly being taken away and that her job duties had been reduced to that of a manager-supervisor with no one to manage or supervise. She alleged that her employer was slowly, but surely, constructively discharging her. She claimed that she had no alternative but to leave and seek other employment because her termination seemed inevitable.

When an employee voluntarily quits a job, he or she has the burden of proving that the resignation was for good cause attributable to his or her work. An employee’s reason for leaving his or her employment must meet the test of ordinary common sense and prudence. In fact, it is a claimant’s responsibility to do whatever is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed. The Appellate Division found that the employee’s job was secure at the time of her resignation and work was available to her at her same hourly wage, with the same work hours and the same work week. For those reasons, the Court held that a factfinder could reasonably conclude that the woman had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work. Therefore, it affirmed the Board of Review’s decision to affirm the disqualification of benefits.

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