Resignation Without Good Cause, Notwithstanding Harassment & Hostile Work Environment Allegations, Justified Denial of Unemployment Benefits, Court Holds

In Matter of Rohde (Goshen Chamber of Commerce, Inc.–Commissioner of Labor), 2019 NY Slip Op 06681 (App. Div. 3d Dept. Sept. 19, 2019), the court affirmed the denial of unemployment benefits, on the ground that the claimant did not establish “good cause” for resigning.

Here are the facts, as summarized by the court:

Claimant, an executive assistant for a local chamber of commerce, received an email from her supervisor pertaining to what the supervisor considered to be her unprofessional and intimidating behavior and setting forth the expectations for claimant’s future behavior while in the workplace. Claimant, who was unhappy with the email and considered it harassment by her supervisor, submitted her resignation the following day.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board found that the claimant voluntarily left her employment without good cause.

The Third Department affirmed, explaining (citations omitted):

Whether a claimant has voluntarily left employment for good cause is a factual determination to be made by the Board, and its decision will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence. Although claimant testified that she quit because she felt harassed by the supervisor and anticipated that she would be fired, “neither criticism of one’s job performance nor quitting in anticipation of discharge constitutes good cause for resignation. Further, notwithstanding the fact that the email invited claimant to submit a response to the email to either the supervisor or the chamber of commerce board, she failed to protect her employment by expressing her concerns regarding the email to either prior to resigning.

The court also rejected the claimant’s argument that the Administrative Law Judge erred in precluding evidence relating to an alleged hostile work environment preceding the supervisor’s tenure, noting that the claimant identified in her unemployment benefits application (and during her interview with the Department of Labor) that she quit as a result of harassment from her supervisor.

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