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Parks v. Board of Review, Department of Labor

405 N.J. Super. 252, 963 A.2d 1245 (App. Div. 2009)

UNEMPLOYMENT — To be rejected for unemployment benefits based upon misconduct, an employee’s wrongful acts have to be deliberate or in disregard of workplace standards; and, absences related to family emergencies do not ordinarily constitute misconduct.

An employee was fired due to excessive absences. Her claim for unemployment compensation was rejected by an appeals tribunal whose decision was affirmed by the Unemployment Board of Review on the grounds that her dismissal was the result of misconduct. In an action brought by the employee against the Board for unemployment benefits, the Appellate Division pointed out that to be rejected for unemployment benefits based on misconduct, an employee’s wrongful actions had to be deliberate or in disregard of workplace standards. It also pointed out that chronic absenteeism resulting in dismissal could result in the denial of unemployment benefits, but found that one of this particular employee’s absences did not meet such a standard because a four-year old niece whose mother was homeless had been dropped off at the employee’s house and the employee had to provide care for her niece. It added that the three earlier absences contributing to her termination included one day when the employee was sick and two days on which she had to care for her son who was sick. The Court found that the appeals tribunal and the Board erred by finding that the employee’s absences constituted misconduct since all of the absences were related to family emergencies, none of which constituted misconduct. On that basis, it reversed the decisions of the appeals tribunal and the Board that denied unemployment benefits for the employee.

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