Eligibility for New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Benefits For Individual Who Was Forced to Quit, Resign or Leave A Job Due to Medical Illness or Condition

Another issue that sometimes arises involved an individual who was forced to quit, resign or leave a job due to medical conditions or issues. The New Jersey courts consistently have held that when an employee becomes ill and does those things reasonably calculated to protect the employment there is no voluntary leaving of work. See DeLorenzo v. Board of Review, 54 N.J. Super. 361, 364 (App. Div. 1969). In DeLorenzo, the court made clear that a failure to report for work because of illness not attributable to the work was not in itself a voluntary quit which disqualified the employee from benefits where he or she seeks to return to the job after the illness. Id. at 364.

The Supreme Court adopted the test articulated by the Board of Review as follows:

The Board now holds that when an employee becomes ill and does those things reasonably calculated to protect the employment and, notwithstanding that she is not reinstated, there is no voluntary leaving of work. In these matters involving separation from employment for health reasons, the Board now holds that the disqualification arises only upon a finding that the employee, in fact, decided to terminate the employment because the work duties are detrimental to an existing physical condition or state of health which did not have a work connected origin.

DeLorenzo, 54 N.J. at 361.

The court affirmed the Board’s finding that the Appellant/Claimant was not disqualified from benefits based on the finding that she did not intend to give up her job; that upon recovery from her illness she sought to return to her employment but no work was available; and that her subsequent efforts to find work were unrewarding.

In Garcia v. Board of Review, 191 N.J. Super. 616 (App. Div. 1983), the court emphasized that the central issue is whether the employee voluntarily left in the sense of “quitting” as opposed to having been discharged by the employer as a result of the employee’s inability to return to work due to medical conditions. See Garcia v. Board of Review, 191 N.J. Super. 602, 608 (App. Div. 1983) (noting that “it is important to distinguish between the kind of absence from work that justifies firing by an employer and the kind that demonstrates an employee’s intention to quit”).

In Garcia, the Appeals Examiner found that Appellant/Claimant had voluntarily quit her employment when she failed to return to work due to medical conditions. However, the court reversed and remanded, holding that disqualification occurs only when the employee “in fact” decides to terminate the employment and that such a judgment cannot be made when the employee “does those things reasonably calculated to protect the employment”.

The court held that in the Appeal Tribunal failed to address the issue of whether Appellant/Claimant intended to sever her employment but rather focused exclusively on whether she had kept the employer informed of her condition. The court found that under the circumstances, the Examiner’s failure to address the issues articulated in DeLorenzo “unfairly prevented the necessary proofs from developing.”

It may be important to seek the advice of a New Jersey Unemployment Compensation attorney or lawyer with respect to determining whether your qualify for New Jersey Unemployment Compensation benefits.

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