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Reed v. Board of Review, Department of Labor

A-427-00T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2001) (Unpublished)

EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE; UNEMPLOYMENT—It is not necessary for a claimant to perform multiple acts of misconduct to satisfy the “misconduct” disqualification provision under New Jersey’s unemployment compensation law.

A part-time student was employed by his college and was terminated for using the college’s “computer equipment during work hours to send an inappropriate, offensive, and obscene e-mail message to a female co-worker who received the message at her workplace on a computer provided by the College.” Presumably offended, the recipient complained to the college. Unauthorized use of the college computer was prohibited and employees were informed of that rule. The college also had a policy addressing sexual harassment and, “pursuant to that policy, the College terminates employees who transmit inappropriate e-mail messages on college computers, as it did in this very instance.” When the student applied for unemployment compensation, his conduct was found to constitute misconduct connected with his work. Based on that finding, “the Appeal Tribunal concluded that the claimant was disqualified from unemployment compensation benefits” for six weeks. The Board of Review affirmed that decision. On further appeal, the Court, giving substantial deference to the agency’s interpretation of the applicable statute, refused to overturn the determination because it found that determination to be other than arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable and it found that the decision against granting unemployment compensation was supported by substantial evidence in the record. Under law, when an individual is disqualified from unemployment benefits “[f]or the week in which the individual has been suspended or discharged for misconduct connected with the work, and for the five weeks which immediately follow that week… .” A deliberate violation of the employer’s rules or a disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect from an employee constitutes misconduct. It is not necessary that a claimant commit multiple acts to constitute the statutory misconduct. In this case, the student’s “actions were neither inadvertent nor unintentional but, rather, deliberate and violative of his employer’s rules and policy, amounting to work-related misconduct within the meaning of” the law.

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