If you are unemployed and you left your New Jersey job because you reasonable believed you would be fired or laid off, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits. Generally, employees who voluntarily quit working may not qualify for unemployment benefits because “the purpose of the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Act [UCA] is to provide some income for the worker earning nothing, because he is out of work through no fault or act of his own….” Battaglia v. Bd. of Review, 14 N.J. Super. 24, 27 (App.Div.1951); see also Yardville Supply Co. v. Bd. of Review, 114 N.J. 371, 375 (1989). The specific language in the UCA states, an individual employee shall be disqualified for benefits if he or she has left work voluntarily “without good cause attributable to such work.” “Good cause attributable to such work” means a reason related directly to the individual’s employment, which was so compelling as to give the individual no choice but to leave the employment.” N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b). Put differently, the employer must be “at fault” for the employee’s quitting. This can be further conceptualized in two ways.
First, an employee who leaves work for a personal reason, or a reason not connected directly to the work, would likely be ineligible for unemployment benefits. The statute references several examples of what would constitute leaving work for personal reasons such as: a lack of transportation; care of children or other relatives; school attendance; self-employment; lack of housing; relocating to another area for personal reasons; relocating to another area to accompany a spouse, a civil union partner, or other relatives; voluntary retirement; to accept other work; or incarceration. N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b)
Second, an employee who leaves work because of mere dissatisfaction with working conditions will likely be ineligible for unemployment benefits unless the work conditions are so unsafe or unhealthy that no reasonable person could withstand working in such an environment, and no remedial action was taken by the employer upon the employees’ complaint of the condition. N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1(b). To illustrate the distinction, an office employee who complains of the office they work in being too warm or cold could not leave for good cause for such a reason because most reasonable employees would consider office temperature to be a slight discomfort. By contrast, if a construction worker were required to operate an electrical equipment to fix leaky roof may leave work for good cause if the worker can show they complained to their employer about the danger of being electrocuted and the employer made no effort to fix the condition.