Aug. 29, 2017 (Date Decided)
FOR APPELLANT: Cassandra Stabbert (South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., attorneys; Ms. Stabbert, on the brief).
FOR RESPONDENT: Melissa Dutton Schaffer, Assistant Attorney General (Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General, attorney; Ms. Schaffer, of counsel; Patrick Jhoo, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Plaintiff appealed from the denial of her application for unemployment compensation benefits. Plaintiff was working as a teacher for Learning Edge Academy, when she accepted an offer from Kids Choice Academy for full-time employment. Plaintiff submitted a letter of resignation to Learning Edge Academy effective immediately. However, the next day Kids Choice rescinded its offer because the employee plaintiff was to replace had decided to remain at Kids Choice; Learning Edge also accepted plaintiff’s resignation.
Plaintiff began looking for other work, assuming Learning Edge would not want her to return because she had resigned. Plaintiff also applied for unemployment compensation benefits, but her application was denied because a claimant was ineligible for benefits if he or she voluntarily left work without good cause attributable to such work. Although defendant board of review acknowledged there was an exception to such ineligibility if a claimant voluntarily left work to commence new employment at the same or greater pay within seven days, it ruled that plaintiff was not entitled to the exception because she did not commence employment with Kids Choice within seven days of her resignation from Learning Edge.
On appeal, the court reversed. The court rejected defendant’s interpretation of the seven-day exception as requiring a claimant to commence accepted employment within the seven-day period. Instead, the court concurred with plaintiff’s interpretation of the statute as merely requiring a claimant to voluntarily leave employment “to accept” employment with a new employer that would commence within the seven-day period. The court found no support in the statute for the board’s imposition of the requirement for claimant to commence new employment, and held that it could not add requirements where the legislature had not expressly done so through the statutory language. Moreover, the court noted that the Unemployment Compensation Law was to be construed liberally in favor of the allowance of benefits.