No. A-2940-15T3

Sept. 28, 2017 (Date Decided)

Judge MESSANO

FOR APPELLANT: South Jersey Legal Services, Inc. (Alan W. Lesso, on the briefs).

FOR RESPONDENT: Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General (Melissa Dutton Schaffer, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Lauren J. Zarrillo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).

Plaintiff appealed from defendant’s final decision denying plaintiff’s application for unemployment compensation benefits. Plaintiff had provided her employer, Laurel Healthcare LLC, with two weeks’ notice that she was leaving to accept a higher-paying position with Alaris Healthcare. Two days before leaving, Alaris informed plaintiff the position was no longer available; when plaintiff attempted to rescind her resignation, Laurel informed her it no longer required her in a full-time position.

Plaintiff’s application for unemployment compensation benefits was denied, as defendant ruled that plaintiff had left her position with Laurel voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Defendant further ruled that because plaintiff had not commenced work with Alaris, she was not entitled to the exception to the rule disqualifying a worker from unemployment compensation for leaving work without good cause attributable to the work.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the plain language of the statute did not impose a “commencement requirement”, and contended that the legislature intended unemployment compensation to protect workers who leave one job for a better paying job where the new job falls through.

Although the court noted that another panel of the court had agreed with plaintiff’s position in a recent case, the court disagreed and affirmed defendant’s decision. The court ruled that the exception to unemployment benefit disqualification did not apply unless the employee accepted new employment that commenced no more than seven days after leaving employment with the first employer. The court held that commencement of new employment was a necessary condition to the exemption from disqualification, as the legislature explicitly required the new employment to commence within seven days. Moreover, the court declined to hold the first employer financially responsible for the consequences that flowed from an employee’s decision to leave to apparently accept new employment.