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Unemployment: NJ Court Clarifies “Misconduct”

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Feb 18, 2009 | 0 Comments

On February 12 we posted here about more-aggressive employer opposition to worker claims for unemployment compensation.  We specifically noted that courts may be redefining "misconduct" in a way that favors employers.

We should have waited a few days.  Since we didn't, It's time to pull out the old knife and fork and eat some crow. 

In Parks v. Board of Review the Appellate Division of NJ Superior Court considered the application for unemployment benefits of an employee whose employer fired her for repeated absences after being given warnings.  Unemployment benefits were denied for misconduct, and the Appeal Tribunal affirmed.  The Appellate Division reversed and ordered that benefits be paid to Parks.  The court noted that three of Parks' absences were caused by her illness or that of her young son.  The fourth had been caused by the unexpected need to care for a homeless four year old niece. 

That conduct, the court ruled, was not  "misconduct":

Absences from work for such reasons do not constitute "deliberate violation[s] of the employer's rules, . . . or . . . an intentional and substantial disregard . . . of the employee's duties and obligations to the employer."

So put an asterisk next to our previous post where we said that the courts may be interpreting "misconduct" to the benefit of employers.  There may be no such trend, at least in New Jersey.

For those of you outside the great Garden State, the court relied upon similar rulings from Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...


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