Employee Who Voluntarily Left His Job After a Suspension Denied Unemployment Compensation By The New Jersey Appellate Court

In Sanseverino v. Board of Review, New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division affirmed a state Department of Labor decision denying unemployment benefits to Dennis Sanseverino, because he voluntarily left his employment with Foulke Management Corporation without good cause.

Sanseverino was a commission-based car salesman for Foulke Management between 2013 and 2018. After making a sale in January 2018, Sanseverino’s commission was reduced by $2,100 to repay a company pool of money he drew from on weeks that he did not have any sales. After learning about the reduction in pay, Sanseverino’s expression of anger toward his manager led to a two-day suspension from work. After he texted his manager for several days without a response, Sanseverino returned to work, gathered his belongings, and left. Sanseverino’s manager texted him in the following days reiterating that Sanseverino had only been suspended from work, but that it appeared Sanseverino resigned from his job by removing his belongings from the office. Sanseverino responded that he did not resign, however he did not return to work at any point.

Sanseverino was initially deemed eligible for unemployment benefits by the Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance, but the Department’s Appeals Tribunal found that Sanseverino voluntarily left his job and could not receive unemployment benefits. The Appeals Tribunal rested its decision on the fact that Sanseverino’s manager said he was suspended—not terminated—from work, and that he never returned to the workplace except to retrieve his belongings. The Department of Labor Board of Review accepted the Tribunal’s findings and affirmed.

On appeal, the Appellate Division reviewed the Department of Labor’s decision with significant deference, stating that the Department’s final determination should only be disturbed if their reasoning was “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable or inconsistent with the applicable law.” The Court found that Sanseverino voluntarily left his job for the same reasons cited by the Department of Labor, and because when he removed his belongings from the workplace, Sanseverino’s “conduct was inconsistent with an employee who took the steps necessary to preserve his position.”

The Appellate Division ultimately affirmed the Department of Labor’s decision because, having voluntarily left his job, Sanseverino would only be eligible for unemployment benefits if he could show “good cause,” or that he had “no choice but to leave the employment,” which elements were not present under the circumstances.

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