The New Jersey Appellate Division recently found that a claimant should be eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks that she attempted to claim unemployment benefits but was unable to do so due to the Division of Unemployment and not due to any fault of her own.
In the case of Smith v. Board of Review, the employee, Conchita Smith, was laid off from her job with the United States House of Representatives on March 15, 2013. Despite being terminated a month early, Ms. Smith waited until April 21, 2013 to file for unemployment benefits. Ms. Smith claimed that she was waiting for her employer’s instructions on how to file for unemployment benefits, although she admitted that she was familiar with the unemployment process. After being found eligible for unemployment benefits, Ms. Smith failed to report her claim for unemployment every two weeks and, as a result, was found to be ineligible for benefits for those weeks. However, during at least some of the weeks, Ms. Smith claimed that she was unable to report her claim due reasons caused by the Division of Unemployment and through no fault of her own. For example, Ms. Smith claimed that she was placed on hold for inordinate periods of time (only to be disconnected) and the online system persistently rejected her Personal Information Number that had been provided her to contact the Division and report her claim for unemployment benefits.
The Court ruled in Ms. Smith’s favor by remanding the matter back to the Appeal Tribunal for further proceedings regarding her eligibility for unemployment benefits for the weeks in which Ms. Smith attempted to reach the Division but was unable to do so through no fault of her own. The Court found that Ms. Smith should be entitled to unemployment benefits for any weeks she was unable to claim due to the fault of the Division of unemployment.
This is an important case for individuals who are otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits but are unable to claim as a result of experiencing great difficulty due to circumstances outside their control. Our office regularly receives calls from clients that they were unable to file for unemployment benefits because of excessive wait times on the phone or being inadvertently hung up on while waiting. This decision will certainly help those folks with their appeals of the denial of unemployment benefits when they were unable to claim for their weekly benefits due to no fault of their own.