LISAMARIE CACCAMO v. BOARD OF REVIEW DEPARTMENT OF LABORAnnotate this Case
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-6128-12T4
BOARD OF REVIEW, DEPARTMENT
OF LABOR and DIAGNOSTIC
IMAGING SERVICES and TOMS
RIVER X-RAY MEDICAL BILLING,
November 19, 2014
Argued September 29, 2014 - Decided
Before Judges Lihotz and St. John.
On appeal from the Board of Review, Department of Labor, Docket No. 425,321.
Alan H. Schorr argued the cause for appellant (Alan H. Schorr & Associates, P.C., attorneys; Lisamarie Caccamo, the pro se brief).
Kelly Lichtenstein, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent Board of Review, Department of Labor (John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney; Lewis A. Scheindlin, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Ms. Lichtenstein, on the brief).
Respondents Diagnostic Imaging Services and Toms River X-Ray Medical Billing have not filed a brief.
Appellant Lisamarie Caccamo appeals from a final decision of the Board of Review (Board), which rejected her application for unemployment benefits under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a) because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Our examination of the record satisfies us that the Board's final decision was properly premised on facts in the record and is consonant with relevant statutory provisions. Accordingly, we affirm.
The record discloses the following facts and procedural history leading to the administrative determination under review.
Beginning in October 2009, Caccamo was employed by Aims Diagnostic Imaging Services (Aims) as a front desk supervisor, who also performed insurance requests and medical billing. On April 17, 2013, Caccamo resigned from Aims "to advance [herself] in [her] career." She began working for Toms River X-Ray on April 22, 2013 at higher pay. Caccamo was terminated from Toms River X-Ray on April 24, 2013. Upon her discharge from Toms River X-Ray, Caccamo returned to Aims in an attempt to regain employment.
On April 21, 2013, Caccamo filed a claim for unemployment benefits. On May 8, 2013, the Deputy Director of the Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance (Division) mailed Caccamo a determination in which the Deputy found she was ineligible for benefits commencing on April 14, 2013 because she left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). The Deputy further determined that Caccamo had not earned sufficient wages in her subsequent employment at Toms River X-Ray to toll the benefit disqualification imposed from her prior employment at Aims.
Caccamo appealed the Deputy's determination. In a June 25, 2013 decision, an Appeal Tribunal found that Caccamo "left work voluntarily with [Aims] because she found employment with [Toms River X-Ray]. Those reasons do not constitute good cause attributable to the work for leaving[,] and the claimant is accordingly disqualified for benefits as of 04/14/2014 under N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a)."
Caccamo appealed to the Board, suggesting that there were health-related reasons for her departure from Aims. She cited treatment she had beginning in December 2011 for an "acute stress reaction," allegedly related to her work. She contended that her doctor placed her on a leave of absence from January 5, 2012 to February 13, 2012. However, upon returning from her leave of absence, she remained at Aims for more than a year before her resignation on April 17, 2013.
On July 23, 2013, the Board affirmed the decision of the Appeal Tribunal. Caccamo appeals from that decision.
Our role in reviewing administrative agency decisions involving unemployment benefits is generally limited. See Brady v. Bd. of Review, 152 N.J. 197, 210 (1997). We defer to factual findings where supported by sufficient credible evidence. Ibid. "'[T]he test is not whether an appellate court would come to the same conclusion if the original determination was its to make, but rather whether the factfinder could reasonably so conclude upon the proofs.'" Ibid. (quoting Charatan v. Bd. of Review, 200 N.J. Super. 74, 79 (App. Div. 1985)).
A reviewing court will intervene only if the challenged action was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or "clearly inconsistent with [the agency's] statutory mission or with other State policy." Ibid. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In sum, the scope of appellate review is confined to determining: first, whether the agency decision offends the State or Federal Constitution; second, whether such action violates legislative policies; third, whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the agency's factual findings; and, lastly, whether the agency, in applying legislative policies to the facts, clearly erred in reaching a conclusion that could not reasonably have been made. Id. at 210-11.
Our decision is also guided by fundamental principles of law governing unemployment compensation. The Unemployment Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 43:21-1 to -24.30 (the Act), is designed primarily to lessen the impact of unemployment that befalls workers without their fault. Id. at 212. "The public policy behind the Act is to afford protection against the hazards of economic insecurity due to involuntary unemployment." Yardville Supply Co. v. Bd. of Review, 114 N.J. 371, 374 (1989).
Accordingly, an individual who has "left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work" is ineligible for benefits. N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(a). Further, an employee who leaves work for a good but personal reason, is also subject to the disqualification. See Pagan v. Bd. of Review, 296 N.J. Super. 539, 542 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 150 N.J. 24 (1997). An employee is required to do "whatever is necessary and reasonable in order to remain employed." Brady, supra, 152 N.J. at 214 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). It is the employee who bears the burden to show that he or she is entitled to unemployment benefits. Id. at 218.
A claimant who leaves work for medical reasons may qualify for unemployment benefits when the claimant submits unequivocal medical evidence that the work caused or aggravated the health problem. SeeWojcik v. Bd. of Review, 58 N.J.341, 344 (1971) (finding doctor's equivocal statement that work "may" have aggravated claimant's condition insufficient to support claim); Israel v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 283 N.J. Super.1, 6 (App. Div. 1995) (holding where an employee asserts that voluntaryseparation resulted from detrimental effects on health, entitlement to unemployment benefits requires a showing by "adequate medical evidence" that the work environment aggravated the illness), certif. denied,143 N.J.326 (1996); Brown v. Bd. of Review, 117 N.J. Super. 399, 404 (App. Div. 1971) (finding claimant's "conclusory statements" that his work aggravated his medical condition insufficient to support claim); N.J.A.C.12:17-9.3(d) (noting that "medical certification shall be required to support a finding of good cause attributable to work").
Applying the foregoing principles, we find no basis to upset the Board's decision. Caccamo challenges the Board's finding that she left work voluntarily as failing to acknowledge her demonstration of health-related issues due to the work environment at Aims. However, the record does not support her assertion.
Caccamo did not raise health-related issues until her appeal before the Board. She subsequently attempted to have the case remanded or to have the record supplemented with medical documentation. On March 13, 2014, we denied her motion to supplement the record and her motion for remand. It is also telling that Caccamo resumed working at Aims for over one year after her medical leave and returned to Aims seeking employment upon her termination from Toms River X-Ray. These facts are inconsistent with Caccamo's assertion that her work environment had such adverse effects on her health that it caused her to leave her position at Aims and seek alternative employment. Her testimony and letter to the Appeal Tribunal support the fact that she left Aims in order to obtain "a better job, higher pay, and [to] [do] what [she] is skilled in from [her] schooling and advance [her] career."
Appellant's reliance upon Rider College v. Board of Review, 167 N.J. Super. 42 (App. Div. 1979) is misplaced. In Rider, we concluded that, while there may be situations where a voluntary quit to take a better position because of factors related to the work would constitute good cause attributable to the work, the burden of proving that the voluntary separation from employment meets the statutory test is upon the claimant. Id. at 47. Here, claimant did not prove that she left her position at Aims for good cause attributable to the work. Appellant's dependence on Utley v. Board of Review, 194 N.J. 534 (2008) is also misplaced. As we determined "when 'commuting problems' arise solely from the personal circumstances of the worker, unrelated to an alteration in the terms of conditions of employment, the worker who voluntarily quits his job cannot show 'good cause' qualifying him for benefits." Id. at 544-45.
Caccamo further claims that the "Notice of Telephone Hearing" did not provide adequate notice of the issues to be discussed and asserts it was unclear what information she was expected to provide. However, the hearing transcript does not support this contention. The appeals examiner asked the pertinent questions, and Caccamo gave no indication that she had resigned from Aims for any reason other than to take a better job.
We find plaintiff's remaining contentions to be without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in this opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
Accordingly, we are satisfied there was sufficient credible evidence in the record as a whole to support the Board's decision that Caccamo left her job with Aims voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work, and thus was disqualified from receiving benefits.