Court Upholds Unemployment Benefits Where Claimant Quit Due to Sexual Harassment

In Matter of Gascon (decided May 29, 2014), the Appellate Division, Third Department, upheld a decision by the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board that the claimant was entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits. In this case, the claimant asserted that she “quit due to persistent and escalating sexual harassment by her supervisor, the owner” of her employer.

Generally, New York Labor Law § 593(1) provides for a disqualification for unemployment benefits where there is a “voluntary separation without good cause from employment.”

In upholding the Board’s determination, the court reasoned:

Whether a claimant has left employment for good cause so as to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits is a factual issue to be resolved by the Board and its determination will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence. Based upon claimant’s testimony concerning various and continuing incidents of sexual harassment by the owner and, in particular, a final incident that precipitated her departure from employment, we find that the record contains substantial evidence supporting the Board’s determination. Although the owner denied engaging in the conduct alleged by claimant, and the employer provided statements of other employees indicating that they had no knowledge of the allegations of sexual harassment, this evidence presented a credibility determination for the Board to resolve.

It also held that the Administrative Law Judge was correct in “denying the employer’s request to subpoena a file of the Division of Human Rights regarding an unrelated complaint made by claimant over 10 years earlier,” reasoning that those “documents were neither material nor relevant to the issues raised during this proceeding.”

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