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McCoy v. Board of Review

381 N.J. Super. 169, 885 A.2d 453 (App. Div. 2005)

UNEMPLOYMENT—To be available for work implicitly means having the ability and willingness to conform to a reasonable work schedule offered by one’s employer.

A health care worker was employed full time when “she decided to accelerate her schooling by taking a full semester’s college credits.” Despite some factual disputes as to exactly what her school schedule was, it was clear that her employer did not have full-time work for her that accommodated her school schedule. “Accordingly, it offered [her] only part-time work. Her hours were thus reduced to sixteen to twenty-four per week.” The health care worker-student applied for partial unemployment benefits, but she was found to be disqualified “on the ground that work was available to [her], but she was unable to accept it because of her school schedule, and thus she was not ‘available for work’ as required” by New Jersey unemployment law. The home health aid appealed, claiming that “she remained available for work throughout the period in question because she was willing, able and ready to accept suitable work that she had no good cause to refuse.” Although she cited a case dealing with an employee who refused to take a day shift but was willing to take an evening shift, the Court saw a difference in these particular circumstances. It found that the home health aid “did not make herself available for an uninterrupted period of work offered in the normal course by her employer, but instead demanded a schedule of interrupted hours that accommodated her class and study time that, in sum, constituted full-time employment.” Further, she offered no evidence that she sought employment other than at her employment. At the initial unemployment hearings, a representative of her employer “testified that the patients that the agency served generally sought care that was uninterrupted by the changes in personnel that would have been required if [this particular home health aid] were assigned to the job.” The Appellate Division had no basis for disturbing the unemployment board’s determination. In reaching its decision, it “concur[red] with the implicit administrative finding that, to be available for work, the potential employee must demonstrate an ability and willingness to conform to a reasonable work schedule offered by the employer.” The Court found “no right to unemployment compensation” in a situation where a claimant “can make herself available at assorted hours that, if worked, would constitute a full-time work week.” It found that in such an instance, a claimant would not be “‘attached to the labor market’ at crucial times, and therefore [such a situation] fails the availability test of the unemployment compensation law.”

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