A late April NJ appeals decision affirmed a finding that Y.R. was disqualified from unemployment benefits because she left her job voluntarily. She suffered from debilitating headaches/migraines since 2006, and has been on various medications to treat that. She began working at a company during 2011 in accounts receivable and was responsible for a host of tasks including assisting patients with insurance claims, answering phones, and ordering supplies.
Over time, the number of patients that Y.R. had to assist increased threefold. She requested that the company’s president get her help, since she was overwhelmed. She did not mention that the increased workload aggravated her preexisting migraine condition. In February 2014, Y.R. submitted a resignation letter stating “…she was depressed, stressed with migraines, overwhelmed, and feeling discriminated against. She did not say that the work aggravated her migraines. She informed the company president that she was resigning, effective March 14, 2014.”
But she did not resign. In late May 2014, she visited her doctor due to migraines and he issued a letter that she be excused from work for 3 days. The president thereafter offered that a new assistant be assigned to help her.
But resigned for real, before the assistant could begin to help her. In fact, she left her job in a fit of rage in the middle of the day on July 22, 2014. She had received a call from a co-employee, who accused her of telling the company president that he was stealing – and she felt threatened, but said that this was not the reason she left. She did not notify [company president] until July 25, 2014 that she resigned because the job was “aggravating her health condition.”
Y.R. applied for but was denied unemployment benefits, because she left her job voluntarily. When she appealed, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Tribunal found that:
(1) She left work voluntarily because she perceived the workload was overwhelming, stressful, and had an adverse effect on her health;
(2) The employer attempted to accommodate her by hiring an assistant to help alleviate the workload; and
(3) She failed to present unequivocal medical evidence to her employer before leaving the job, showing that her duties of employment or conditions of the job caused or aggravated her health condition.
The appeals court found that she did indeed leave work voluntarily, because she failed to provide her employer with any documentation showing that her medical issue was exacerbated by the employment. Further, she failed to give the employer an opportunity to accommodate her, based on that information. It is well settled NJ law that an individual with a medical condition exacerbated by work must literally be forced to leave his or her employment, after fully and completely notifying an employer and providing an opportunity to accommodate, to receive unemployment benefits. 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.