Unemployment Denial Upheld; Claimant Did Not Voluntarily Leave With “Good Cause”

In Matter of Thuy Pham (Sperber, Denenberg & Kahan, PC–Commissioner of Labor), 2019 NY Slip Op 08907 (App. Div. 3d Dept. Dec. 12, 2019), the court upheld the dismissal of the claimant’s claim for unemployment benefits, finding that she did not voluntarily leave with “good cause.”

Claimant – an attorney and associate at a law firm – learned that her duties changed after she returned from medical leave resulting from surgery. She resigned. She initially was determined to be eligible for benefits, but after the employer objected and a hearing was conducted, an Administrative Law Judge overruled the initial determination and found the claimant disqualified from receiving benefits because she voluntarily left her employment without good cause. The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board upheld this decision, and the claimant appeals.

The court summarized the applicable substantive and procedural law:

[W]hether a claimant has good cause to leave his or her employment so as to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits is a factual determination to be made by the Board, and its decision will not be disturbed when supported by substantial evidence” (Matter of Roberson [Commissioner of Labor], 142 AD3d 1259, 1260 [2016] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; see Matter of Torres [Commissioner of Labor], 111 AD3d 1215, 1215 [2013]). Notably, general dissatisfaction with one’s job or work environment does not constitute good cause for leaving one’s employment.

Applying the law, the court upheld the Board’s determination, noting that substantial evidence supported its finding that the claimant quit “for personal and noncompelling reasons.”

While the claimant asserted that she “resigned from her position because she was no longer doing the transactional work, which was less physically taxing given her mobility problems, and she perceived the work environment to be hostile considering the employer’s attitude toward her physical therapy appointments”, she “conceded that she never told the employer that she had a medical condition making it hard for her to go to court, and her physician did not indicate that she had any specific medical restrictions.”

The court also noted that the employer’s representatives said that the claimant “never disclosed that she had any medical restrictions despite their requests for such information.”

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