Gerber v. Board of Review

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtKESTIN
Citation712 A.2d 688,313 N.J.Super. 37
Decision Date24 June 1998
PartiesKimberly A. GERBER (Golden), Claimant-Appellant, v. BOARD OF REVIEW, Respondent.

Page 37

313 N.J.Super. 37
712 A.2d 688
Kimberly A. GERBER (Golden), Claimant-Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, Respondent.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division.
Submitted May 6, 1998.
Decided June 24, 1998.

[712 A.2d 689]

Page 38

Kimberly A. Golden, appellant pro se.

Peter Verniero, Attorney General, for the Board of Review (Mary C. Jacobson, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Alan C. Stephens, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Before Judges KING, MUIR, Jr. and KESTIN.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

KESTIN, J.A.D.

Claimant appeals from a decision of the Board of Review denying her claim for unemployment benefits. In reaching its result, the Board adopted a decision of the Appeal Tribunal which held that claimant was disqualified for benefits because she had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). We are in substantial agreement with the Board's conclusion that claimant's allegations of stress on the job were not adequate as a compelling reason for leaving the job, and were, in any event, not sufficiently established. When claimant failed to support her allegation of job-related stress with medical documentation, the Board was well warranted in concluding that she had not satisfied the statutory "good cause attributable to [the] work" requirement in that connection. Nevertheless, the record suggests that the employer prevented claimant from beginning

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a new job which she had obtained before leaving the subject employment. We hold in the circumstances presented, if it is established to the agency's satisfaction that claimant's unemployed status was the direct result of the employer's conduct rather than claimant's own choice, that, as a matter of law, the unemployment must be seen to be attributable to the work as contemplated by the Unemployment Compensation Act (the Act), and claimant is eligible for benefits thereunder.

Claimant was employed by Allied Physicians Billing & Management Resources (Allied), where she worked as an account service representative. Claimant left Allied's employ on August 8, 1996, after finding other employment with Pinelands OB/GYN (Pinelands) which was to commence on August 19, 1996. According to claimant, she left Allied because of job-related stress, induced primarily by various conflicts with her supervisor, Peg Bofsord. Claimant alleged that Bofsord criticized her in front of other employees, causing her unnecessary humiliation, and assigned claimant to assist other employees in their tasks, which led her to fall behind in her own work. On August 16, three days before she was scheduled to begin work at Pinelands, claimant was notified that Pinelands had withdrawn its offer of a position because Allied had threatened a lawsuit should Pinelands employ her. Allied's conduct in this regard was verified by its representative who testified in the hearing before the Appeal Tribunal. Allied had taken the position that Pinelands was bound by its agreement as a former client of Allied not to hire any Allied employee for two years following the employee's separation from Allied. The validity of any such agreement is not at issue in this proceeding, and the record is silent as to whether claimant and Allied were parties to an employment contract with a restrictive covenant.

The finding that claimant's working conditions were not so onerous as to constitute "good cause attributable to [the] work" is sufficiently supported by credible evidence in the record to require our deference. Self v. Board of Review, 91 N.J. 453, 459, 453 A.2d 170 (1982) ("If the factual findings of an administrative agency are

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supported by sufficient credible evidence, courts are [712 A.2d 690] obliged to accept them"); Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 598-99, 210 A.2d 753 (1965). See also Brady v. Board of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210-11, 704 A.2d 547 (1997) (describing "limited" standard of review of administrative agency decisions). Deference to agency determinations is especially appropriate where the agency's decision is informed by its subject matter expertise in the area delegated by the Legislature. See Close v. Kordulak, supra, 44 N.J. at 599, 210 A.2d 753 (stating that courts should give "due regard" to agency expertise "where such expertise is a pertinent factor"); Brady v. Board of Review, supra, 152 N.J. at 210, 704 A.2d 547 (noting that appellate courts must defer to agency "expertise and superior knowledge of a particular field") (citing Greenwood v. State Police Training Ctr., 127 N.J. 500, 513, 606 A.2d 336 (1992)).

The on-the-job reprimands administered to claimant by her supervisor, Bofsord, while public and arguably improper and humiliating, were not so burdensome as to justify claimant's departure from the job. Cf. Goebelbecker v. State, 53 N.J.Super. 53, 59, 146 A.2d 488 (App.Div.1958). Moreover, claimant had discussed her problems concerning Bofsord with Belinda Manix, Bofsord's supervisor. Manix had instructed Bofsord that any future reprimands with regard to claimant's work should occur in private, and she arranged for Bofsord to attend a supervisor training seminar. Furthermore, although claimant complained of severe stress because of conditions on the job, which allegedly induced physical symptoms and led to her physician prescribing antidepressant medication, no medical documentation was presented to establish either the nature and quality of the stress or its causal connection with job conditions. Thus, if the question as to claimant's eligibility for benefits were to be limited to the facts surrounding her departure from Allied, the Board of Review's determination that claimant left the employment without good cause attributable to the work would command our deference as

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amply supported by the record with due regard for the Board's expertise.

An alternative ground of eligibility presented by claimant was unaddressed by the agency, however. The Attorney General argues on behalf of the Board's decision:

Undoubtedly, it served no useful purpose under the circumstances for Gerber to resign and join the ranks of the unemployed, trading fair compensation from employment for no compensation at all. Despite indicating that she wanted to work things out with her employer, she resigned suddenly, demonstrating that she did not try hard enough to remain employed. Plainly, "to allow [Gerber] to recover [benefits] would subvert the express policy of providing aid to those who are unemployed 'through no fault of their own.' " * * * The Unemployment Benefit Program was not intended to pay benefits in these circumstances.

Rather, the Unemployment Compensation Law is designed to...

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2 practice notes
  • Brown v. Bd. of Review, DOCKET NO. A-3863-15T4
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • June 13, 2018
    ...131 N.J. Super. at 587. However, claims of this nature must be supported by sufficient, credible evidence. Gerber v. Bd. of Review, 313 N.J. Super. 37, 39-40 (App. Div. 1998). Claimant submitted no evidence beyond hearsay statements, allegedly made by a third party, to support her assertion......
  • Carney v. Bd. of Review, DOCKET NO. A-5307-18T2
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • January 8, 2021
    ...humiliation, and assigned [the] claimant to assist other employees in their tasks, which led her to fall behind in her own work." 313 N.J. Super. 37, 39 (App. Div. 1998). In addition, the claimant did not present any medical documentation to establish work-related stress. Id. at 40. We held......
2 cases
  • Brown v. Bd. of Review, DOCKET NO. A-3863-15T4
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • June 13, 2018
    ...131 N.J. Super. at 587. However, claims of this nature must be supported by sufficient, credible evidence. Gerber v. Bd. of Review, 313 N.J. Super. 37, 39-40 (App. Div. 1998). Claimant submitted no evidence beyond hearsay statements, allegedly made by a third party, to support her assertion......
  • Carney v. Bd. of Review, DOCKET NO. A-5307-18T2
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • January 8, 2021
    ...humiliation, and assigned [the] claimant to assist other employees in their tasks, which led her to fall behind in her own work." 313 N.J. Super. 37, 39 (App. Div. 1998). In addition, the claimant did not present any medical documentation to establish work-related stress. Id. at 40. We held......

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