The New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed the Board of Review’s decision denying claimant, Ms. Samantha Monday, from receiving unemployment benefits because she left her employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Ms. Monday was denied unemployment benefits in the initial hearing. However, on appeal, the Deputy determined that being paid less than the national average rate of pay for similar work constituted cause attributable to the work and awarded unemployment benefits. The employer appealed the Deputy’s award of benefits and the Appeal Tribunal concluded that the employer’s failure to give Ms. Monday a raise immediately upon her request, absent a contractual obligation, did not support a claim for unemployment benefits for voluntarily leaving employment with good cause attributable to the work. The Board of Review and the Appellate Division subsequently affirmed that determination.

In the case, Monday v. Board of Review, Ms. Monday began her employment with Mohn’s Florist as a floral designer from May 2004 through May 2009. Ms. Monday also became the shop’s retail manager during the course of her employment. Ms. Monday claimed that she left her job because she needed to make at least $22 per hour and spoke with the owners at least five times regarding her dissatisfaction with her rate of pay. Ms. Monday demanded a raise from Ms. Cochrane, co-owner of Mohn’s Florist on the day she left her employment. Ms. Cochrane informed Ms. Monday she would have to consult with her husband (the other owner of Mohn’s Florist) over the weekend. When Ms. Monday did not receive an immediate response, she cleared her belongings and left.

In support of her claim that she was entitled to unemployment benefits, Ms. Monday asserted that she was assured she would receive an increase in pay and knew that she was underpaid because of “some averages” she found online and knowledge of the wages of other floral designers she knew personally. Mohn’s Florist disputed Ms. Monday’s allegations claiming Ms. Monday would have received the average pay for the Edison, NJ area, which at the time was $15.35 per hour. Additionally, Mohn’s Florist stated that Ms. Monday was given raises and bonuses in May of each year, and occasionally, also in December, dependent upon business performance. The Appellate Division found that because Mohn’s Florist only asked for the weekend before responding to Ms. Monday’s request for a raise, Ms. Monday in fact left her employment without good cause attributable to the work and was not entitled to unemployment benefits.

Ms. Monday appealed the determination denying her unemployment benefits. The Board of Review affirmed the decision stating that Ms. Monday’s mere disappointment in not receiving a hoped-for raise absent a contractual obligation was not sufficient good cause attributable to the work and her resignation barred her from collecting benefits. The Board found that Mohn’s Florist was not legally obligated to provide Ms. Monday a raise and thus, her voluntary leaving her employment for that reason was not based on good cause attributable to the work.

In affirming the Board’s decision, the Appellate Division stated that there was no contractual obligation between Mohn’s Florist and Ms. Monday to obtain a raise. The court disagreed with Ms. Monday’s assertion that an employment verification form Mohn’s Florist had completed for Ms. Monday during her employment indicating that Ms. Monday would receive a raise in January 2009 was equivalent to a contractual commitment to provide such raise. Instead, the court found that this employment verification form was not binding. Further, Ms. Monday failed to prove under N.J.A.C. 12:17-11.2(b)(2), that her wages were substantially less than those prevailing for similar work in the labor market area. The average figures provided by Ms. Monday were national figures, therefore the court found these did not adequately substantiate her claim of “substantially less” wages for the market areas as required by the statute.

The Appellate Division only intercedes an agency decision on unemployment benefits when it is arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by substantial or credible evidence on the record as a whole. In this case, the Appellate Division saw no need to intercede because the statute does not include dissatisfaction with wages as “good cause attributable to the work.” Ms. Monday failed to meet her burden to establish a right to unemployment compensation thus, the Board’s decision denying her unemployment benefits was affirmed.

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