Eligibility for New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Benefits: Part Time Employment

An issue sometimes arises when an individual has been employed in both a part time job and a full time job and files a claim for unemployment benefits when they leave or lose one of the jobs. In Goodman v. Board of Review, 245 N.J. Super. 551 (App. Div. 1991), the Appellate Division, deciding an issue of first impression, reversed a Determination of the Board of Review holding Claimant ineligible for benefits that she was otherwise eligible to receive based upon the fact that the Claimant had left a post-termination part time position and reinstated the entitlement to benefits denied by the Division of Employment and Disability Insurance.

In doing so, the court clearly and unambiguously held that an individual otherwise eligible for benefits based upon full-time employment does not become ineligible (or partially ineligible) for benefits because a worker later voluntarily leaves a part-time job. The court held that the Act permits a Claimant to work part-time and still collect partial benefits and a Claimant acquiring a part-time job “does not destroy her status automatically as unemployed and does not defeat her eligibility for benefits”.

In that case, the Claimant, Lorraine Goodman, was a shirt presser at a dry cleaner in Camden County from June 1988 through March 1989. She was fired from her job on March 31, 1989 after she failed to report to work because of a plumbing problem at her home and subsequently filed for, and began receiving, unemployment compensation benefits on April 9, 1989.

While receiving unemployment benefits, Claimant took a part-time telemarketing job with JFD of Pennsauken which she started on April 12, 1989 and which she fully disclosed to the Division. Based upon her part-time employment, which she reported, Claimant’s benefits were partially reduced based upon the earnings received in connection with her part-time employment. Claimant subsequently left her part-time employment at JFD because she had to schedule appointments for interviews for full-time work during the morning hours.

The Director of the Division of Employment Disability and Insurance subsequently informed Claimant on July 24, 1989 that she was not eligible for benefits as of the date that she left her part-time employment and was liable for an overpayment in the amount of all benefits received since she left the part-time employment totaling $2,109.00. The Director had concluded at the time that the Claimant had voluntarily quit her job with the initial employer without good cause. Claimant appealed the Director’s Determination.

At the Appeal Tribunal hearing on August 17, 1989, the Appeals Examiner reversed the Director’s conclusion that Claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits because she voluntarily quit her initial job. However, he affirmed the Director’s ruling of disqualification by concluding that Claimant had voluntarily quit her subsequent part-time job at JFD without good cause attributable to her work. Claimant subsequently appealed to the Board of Review which affirmed the Appeal Tribunal.

On appeal, the Division did not challenge the finding that Claimant was qualified for benefits based upon her original separation of employment but asserted that Claimant’s voluntary departure from her subsequent part-time employment rendered Claimant disqualified for the benefits she received.

On appeal, the court reviewed the legislative history, the language of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation statute and case law from multiple other jurisdictions addressing the issue of whether an individual becomes ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits that an individual is otherwise eligible to receive if an individual subsequently leaves a part-time job. On appeal, the Board contended that the statute is meant to discourage workers from quitting full-time or part-time jobs under all circumstances.

In rejecting the Board’s contention, this court held that it was adopting the view of New Jersey’s “seven sister states” which have determined that the purpose of their unemployment compensation acts are frustrated when benefits are denied to a Claimant who quits a part-time job which has not previously effected the Claimant’s statutorily defined status of unemployed. The court noted that disqualification for benefits for having voluntarily left a job should be judicially interpreted to apply only to the last full-time or steady employment voluntarily left by a Claimant.

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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