The Internet may have built a global village, but online job hunting from overseas doesn’t qualify the seeker for unemployment compensation, a New Jersey appeals court says.
Tanya Vialet’s “efforts to remain electronically linked to the marketplace do not overcome her physical absence,” the Appellate Division held, since if offered a job, she would have been unable to start for several weeks.
That meant no benefits paid for the length of her stay abroad, the judges said, affirming an administrative decision in Vialet v. Board of Review, A-1226-11.
Vialet, a former senior research associate at Lundbeck Research USA in Paramus, collected $600 a week in unemployment pay from Oct. 10 to Dec. 11, 2010. On Dec. 15, she traveled to Jamaica to stand as the maid of honor for her sister’s wedding. She then flew to the U.S. Virgin Islands to visit her husband’s parents, who were in poor health. She returned to New Jersey on Dec. 31, 2010.
The Board of Review found her ineligible for benefits from Dec. 12, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2011, citing N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(c)(1), which makes benefits payable in a week in which the applicant is “able to work, and is available for work, and has demonstrated to be actively seeking work.”
The board held that Vialet’s trip did not fall under any of the statutory exemptions to that requirement: jury duty, participation in a job-training program and attendance at an immediate family member’s funeral.
On appeal, Vialet asserted that the board’s strict interpretation of the statutory requirement failed to consider a job-seeker’s ability to use the Internet to look for openings and to respond to prospective employers’ inquiries while traveling.
The board countered that Vialet was unable to meet the condition adopted by the Supreme Court in Krauss v. A. & M. Karagheusian, Inc., 13 N.J. 447 (1953), which said a claimant must remain willing, able and ready to accept suitable work that he or she would not have good cause to refuse, and that during the period in question the recipient was “genuinely attached to the labor market.”
Appellate Division Judges Jose Fuentes and Victor Ashrafi said the definition of availability in Krauss remains viable, notwithstanding dramatic changes in the way job searches are conducted.
“Vialet’s voluntary decisions to attend a family wedding in Jamaica and to visit her relatives in the U.S. Virgin Islands left her unavailable to accept suitable employment during the period of time she was not in the country,” they said.
Vialet was pro se. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Lackay represented the Board of Review. Neither could be reached Monday.