September 27, 2021

Claim for unemployment insurance benefits denied because the applicant was found to have voluntarily left his employment without good cause

A claim for unemployment insurance benefits filed by a City of New York maintenance and filter plant operator [Claimant] at a public swimming pool filed by resigned from his position. Claimant contended that he resigned because he believed that the working conditions in the maintenance facility constituted a dangerous work environment.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board] ruled that Claimant was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits because he voluntarily left his employment without good cause. Claimant appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board's decision, explaining "whether a claimant has good cause to leave employment is a factual issue for the Board to resolve and its determination will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence."

Citing Matter of Micara [Commissioner of Labor], 307 AD2d 568, the court said "Objections to the environmental conditions in the workplace will not [constitute good cause for leaving employment] unless the claimant can show reasonable grounds for the perception that his or her personal safety or health would be endangered thereby."

The court found that the record established that Claimant told his supervisor that he was required to clean a "hair catcher" twice a day but a defective valve made it impossible to control the water that gushed out, necessitating the help of other coworkers to hold down the cover. Although the valve was not permanently fixed after the defect was reported by Claimant, Claimant's supervisor testified that, although it was difficult to clean, it was not unsafe and, in any event, he told Claimant that he no longer was required to clean the hair catcher.

As to other perceived hazardous conditions at the pool maintenance facility reported by Claimant, his supervisor testified regarding the training and protective equipment provided the Claimant and that the facility is inspected by two government agencies for safety at least once a year. The supervisor also testified that he was trying to accommodate Claimant's request to be transferred to another assignment, but that Claimant had resigned before a position became available.

In addition, Claimant conceded that he did not have any adverse health issues as a result of his working conditions, nor did he consult with a doctor prior to resigning.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division found that substantial evidence supported the Board's decision that Claimant voluntarily left his employment without good cause.

Click HEREto access the Appellate Division's decision.

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