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Paintner v. Board of Review

A-3829-03T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

UNEMPLOYMENT—Even though a employee, at the outset of employment, is aware that an agreed-upon flexible work schedule may be eliminated, if after a long time no change is made, then when a change is made the employee may have good cause attributable to employment to quit his or her job and be eligible for unemployment benefits.

An employee was given a flexible work schedule as an accommodation by her employer due to a change in work location. The employer’s new place of business was farther away and increased the employee’s commuting time by approximately one hour. The employer allowed the flexible work schedule so that the employee could balance her childcare responsibilities. After several years, the employee’s work performance declined and the employer required her to maintain standard non-flexible hours so that she could be properly supervised. The employee resigned her position and applied for unemployment compensation benefits. The Division of Unemployment Compensation found that she was qualified for benefits. The employer appealed to the Appeal Tribunal, but failed to appear for a scheduled hearing and its appeal was dismissed. The employer then appealed to the Board of Review. The Board of Review found that the employee was disqualified from receiving benefits because she left her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to her employment as required by statute [N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)]. The Board of Review held that because the employee was aware that the employer had the right to change her hours from a flexible schedule to a set work schedule, she left her job voluntarily and not for a good cause related to her employment.

The employee appealed and the Appellate Division reversed. The scope of appellate review is limited. If the Board of Review’s findings are supported by sufficient, credible evidence, an appellate court cannot substitute its judgment even if it disagrees with the Board of Review’s decision. Here, the Court found that the board’s findings were not supported by the record. Instead, it found that the employer was aware that, in moving the employee’s work location to another facility, the employee required flexible hours in order to relieve her child’s babysitter. For several years, the employer permitted the flexible schedule for that purpose. When the employer eliminated the flexible schedule, the employee was left with no alternative but to resign. The Court determined that the change in schedule from a flexible schedule to a standard schedule, was, in this circumstance “good cause attributable to her employment.” It found the employee was entitled to receive unemployment benefits.

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