J.S. appealed pro se (on his own behalf) two June 2015 final decisions by the Board of Review of the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development that dealt with 2 negative unemployment benefits decisions made against him. After the first decision denied benefits, he appealed and got a different (and better) decision. The Board of Review, the highest authority to which someone can appeal a benefits denied, short of going to Court, did a final review and said that the first decision should stand, because the second one improperly addressed the exact same questions. The case then went to an appellate court, which confirmed the Board of Review’s decision.
The first unemployment Appeal Tribunal decision “determined that appellant was ineligible for benefits for a two-week period during which he was on a voluntary vacation out of the country. He was ordered to refund $1,272 he received in benefits for those weeks.” The other decision found that J.S. he should only be disqualified for benefits for one week.
J.S. claimed that his voluntary two-week vacation out of the country “did not render him unavailable for work during that time.” In March 2014, J.S., at age sixty-five, was laid off from his position as a managing consultant at a large computer company, where he was making about $120,000 annually. J.S. subsequently applied for and was approved for unemployment benefits, and received $636 weekly. He also sent out 75 resumes nationwide, which did not generate any interest. J.S. and his wife celebrated their 35th anniversary in Mexico during this unemployed period. When he electronically certified for his benefits, he did so from a Mexican IP address “which triggered the resulting disqualification.”
He insisted that he was available to continue pursuing suitable employment by telephone even though he was on vacation in Mexico. At the first hearing, he failed to convince the hearing examiner of his availability. She found that under the law (N.J.S.A. 43:21-4(c)(1) and the circumstances, he was not able and available for work while on vacation thousands of miles away. The Board of Review made a final review and agreed with her reasoning, while rejecting the 2nd and more favorable decision. Because it was made later, the Board did not feel the need to address its reasoning.
The appeals judge pointed to the law saying that “an individual who voluntarily takes a vacation is ineligible for benefits as the individuals is unavailable for work.” (N.J.A.C. 12:17-8.10(a)). So there was no reason to change the final decision. Beyond the law, it makes sense for there to be a policy denying unemployment benefits to people on vacation and out of the country. You should talk to an attorney for help with any interaction with a State agency, to ensure your understanding of rights and obligations under the law. Evan Xavier Bakhet is a J.D. Candidate at Rutgers School of Law-Newark with a scheduled graduation date in 2017. He collaborated with me on this blog.