Can I Get Unemployment if I Had to Quit my Job for Medical Reasons?
February 8, 2018
Jennifer Vorih, Esq., Ty Hyderally, Esq.
New Jersey provides unemployment compensation for employees who lose their employment through no fault of their own. Generally, that means that New Jersey employees need to be fired or laid off, in order to collect unemployment benefits. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. New Jersey Administrative Code (“N.J.A.C.”) 12:17-9.1 provides that employees who leave work, rather than being fired or laid off, must show that they had “good cause” to quit, that this good cause was attributable to their jobs, that the reason was “related directly” to the employment, and that it was “so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment.”
New Jersey employees who are forced to quit their jobs because their work exacerbates a medical or mental condition which is unrelated to work may be eligible for such an exception. N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.3(b) allows that: “An individual who leaves a job due to a physical and/or mental condition or state of health which does not have a work-connected origin but is aggravated by working conditions will not be disqualified for benefits for voluntarily leaving work without good cause ‘attributable to such work,’ provided there was no other suitable work available which the individual could have performed within the limits of the disability.”
A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case affirmed but modified an Appellate Division decision which had significantly limited the ability of employees to receive benefits under the medical exception. The Appellate Division had affirmed the Board of Review’s 2013 decision that N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.3(b) required employees to notify their employers of medical conditions which were exacerbated by the work, request accommodations, and give the employers the “opportunity to address the matter to determine whether there was other suitable work available.” Ardan v. Board of Review, 444 N.J. Super. 576, 586 (App. Div. 2016). This “notice and inquiry” requirement created a significant burden for New Jersey employees. In Ardan v. Board of Review, 2018 N.J. LEXIS 123, the New Jersey Supreme Court modified the Appellate Division’s decision, holding that N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.3(b) does not contain such a “notice-and-inquiry” requirement, which could only be created by “rulemaking.” Id., at *9-10.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court went on to hold that, sometimes a claimant will still need to notify her employer of her medical conditions and requested accommodations before resigning, in order to meet her “burden to demonstrate the unavailability of alternative ‘suitable work.’” Id. at *23. In Ardan, the only evidence offered by the employee was her testimony that no alternative suitable work was available. As Ardan’s former employer did not appear at the hearing at which Ardan testified, it neither cross-examined her nor offered its own evidence regarding this issue. The Supreme Court held that Ardan had not met her burden. Thus, despite the Supreme Court opining that N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.3(b) does not contain a “notice-and-inquiry” requirement, its decision affirmed that the burden of demonstrating unavailability of alternate suitable work is on the employee.
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