Worker Who Quits for a Better Job May Still Get Unemployment Benefits
I was pleased to read that the NJ Appellate Division gave a fair reading to a recent amendment to the NJ unemployment compensation statute in order to award benefits to a displaced worker.
In McClain v. Board of Review, the Appellate Division overturned the New Jersey Board of Review’s denial of unemployment benefits to Patricia McClain who left her job as a teacher at one private school to take a job at another – but then found herself unemployed after the second school rescinded its offer of employment.
McClain applied for unemployment benefits after she learned that her new job offer had been rescinded. Her claim was denied and she appealed. The Appeal Tribunal affirmed the denial of benefits, holding that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because she left her first job “voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work.” The Appeal Tribunal also noted that there is a recently enacted exemption from the disqualification for an individual who voluntarily leaves work with one employer to accept from another employer employment which commences not more than seven days after the individual leaves employment with the first employer, if the employment with the second employer has weekly hours or pay not less than the hours or pay of the employment of the first employer [and the employee is terminated from the second job.] The Appeal Tribunal determined McClain was not covered by the exemption because she did not actually commence employment with the second employer within seven days of her last day of employment at the first employer. She was scheduled to start with the second employer within the seven days, but that offer was rescinded before she could start. The Appeal Tribunal determined McClain was not covered by the exemption because she did not actually commence employment with the second employer within seven days of her last day of employment with the first employer.
The Board of Review, on appeal, also denied McClain’s application for unemployment benefits on the same grounds.
The three-judge Appellate Division panel, disagreed, and held that “a claimant need not actually start the new employment to be exempt from disqualification.” The Court said the issue was a question of interpretation, and added that the statute should be interpreted liberally so as not to penalize workers who leave one job for another that pays better. They also noted that 26 other states have adopted similar statutes and interpreted them similarly. Finally, the Court noted that there was nothing in the legislative record to support the imposition of a condition that a claimant begin working the new job within seven days in order to be eligible for benefits.