A New Jersey Appellate Division has reversed a Board of Review decision denying an employee the right to have an appeal hearing after failing to register and appear for the scheduled appeal hearing. This decision stems from the Department of Labor, Unemployment Division, recent change in its procedures that now requires the employee and employer to pre-register one day before the scheduled hearing before the Appeal Tribunal. In this case, the employee’s unemployment appeal was dismissed without any opportunity to have an appeal hearing because of the employee’s failure to call and register.
In the case entitled Jeff Randall v. Board of Review and D&C Tire Pros, Inc., the claimant, Mr. Randall filed his claim for unemployment benefits in January, 2017 as a result of the termination of his employment with D&C Tire Pros, Inc. The initial determination disqualified Mr. Randall from receiving unemployment benefits by finding that Mr. Randall was discharged for simple misconduct in connection with the work. The simple misconduct determination resulted in disqualifying Mr. Randall from receiving unemployment benefits from the period January 22, 2017 through March 18, 2017. Mr. Randall appealed the Deputy’s initial determination to the Appeal Tribunal by arguing that he was not terminated from his employment due to simple misconduct connected with the work.
In response to his appeal, Mr. Randall received a Notice of Telephone Hearing to take place on April 6, 2017 before an Appeal Tribunal Hearing Examiner. The Notice of Telephone Hearing reads as follows:
“Unlike the Unemployment fact-finding interview, the office of the Benefit Appeals WILL NOT INITIATE A CALL TO YOU UNLESS YOU HAVE REGISTERED FOR THE HEARING AS INSTRUCTED ABOVE. So, please remember to REGISTER NO LATER THAN 3:00 P.M., EST, ON THE BUSINESS DAY PRIOR TO YOUR SCHEDULED HEARING BEFORE THE APPEAL TRIBUNAL.
Your appeal may be dismissed or you may be denied participation in the hearing if you fail, without good case, to follow the instructions contained in this notice.
Mr. Randall sent a letter to the Appeal Examiner in response to the hearing notice that set forth the reasons for his appeal and that he would “speak with [the Appeal Examiner] on April 6th.” Mr. Randall, however, failed to call and register for before the April 6, 2017 scheduled hearing. As a result, no hearing took place and Mr. Randall’s appeal was dismissed by the Appeal Tribunal. Specifically, the Appeal Tribunal determined that Mr. Randall’s failure to “thoroughly read the notice and note the established deadline for registration” did not amount to good cause. Mr. Randall appealed the determination arguing that he made a mistake by failing to register. The Board of Review denied Mr. Randall’s appeal and affirmed the Appeal Tribunal’s decision dismissing Mr. Randall’s unemployment claim.
In reversing the decision, and remanding the matter back to the Appeal Tribunal, the Appellate Division held that there was no basis for the Board of Review’s finding that Mr. Randall’s lack of diligence and attention did not amount to good cause. The court noted that the record showed that Mr. Randall was not provided any opportunity to present any evidence as to the cause for his mistake for failing to register for the Appeal Hearing. As a result, the court found that the Board of Review’s decision finding that the Mr. Randall failed to show good cause was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.
The Appellate Division’s decision is an important reminder to New Jersey employees to make sure they carefully read all notices from the unemployment office and adhere to the Department of Labor’s rules and procedures in connection with unemployment appeals. Claimants frequently contact our New Jersey unemployment lawyers after being denied the right of their appeal for failing to properly register for an Appeal Hearing, which can present a very difficult barrier to overcome that is self-inflicted in addition to the merits of the unemployment appeal.
If you are someone who is attempting or need to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits and need advice and counsel from an unemployment attorney, please do not hesitate to contact one of your Monmouth County unemployment lawyers to discuss the particular facts and circumstances of your New Jersey unemployment appeal.