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NJ UI Hearing

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  • NJ UI Hearing


    I am a former middle school science teacher from NJ. I was diagnosed with MS after five years of increasing levels of physical and cognitive problems. I had significant difficulty in getting through my work day for about three years. I have visual problems, pain and weakness in my extremities (difficulty in walking up stairs), doing repetitive tasks, slurred speech and cognitive difficulties (problems with multitasking, sporadic memory lapses).

    I told my employer about my diagnosis back in 2004. Although she was comforting and supportive (in a way), my work environment remained unaltered. Part of the so-called blame is on me, because I didn't know about accommodations and what my options were. I did complain about the environmental factors, such as excessive heat in my classroom (heat can cause MS symptoms to get worse, as is the case with me). There was only so much that could be done, I guess, because it's an old building. I missed a lot of days of work this past year due to my illness during which time I had an acute exacerbation that required IV steroids.

    I was asked along with my peers in April 2005 whether I would be returning to work in September. I didn't feel that I would be physically able to make the commute (200 miles round trip), deal with the environmental stresses (old building, not climate controlled; stairs to climb when escorting students to fire drills, etc.) and the demands of the job itself ( I have difficulty even writing on the chalkboard; urban setting, overcrowding, lots of fights in the classroom, etc.). I submitted my letter in June stating that I would not be returning in September.

    I applied for NJ unemployment benefits and was denied. I appealed to see if the hearing officer will look at my reasons for leaving.

    Does this not constitute good cause for voluntary leaving?


  • #2
    It may but the larger issue is whether you are physically available and capable of working. Even if this constitutes "good cause" to resign under UC reg's, claimants must be available for work. I'm sorry to say it doesn't sound like you are.

    Your more likely option may be to file for disability benefits under any STD or LTD benefit the school offered.


    • #3
      Ready and available for work?

      Thanks for your reply. I think that you've made a good point. In fact, I've been seriously thinking about what makes sense for me right now. I honestly think that I am capable of doing something, but not what I was doing in middle school. With the advent of technology and increased access for people with limitations, I thought about distance education. I have a graduate degree and I'm looking to pursue teaching using that modality. If I have no other choice, then I'll look toward disability, but I hate to just give up at this point in my career. I guess I want to have it all and maybe I can't accept what's happening to me.

      I appreciate your input.



      • #4
        Employer was a no-show for hearing

        Hi All,

        Well, I had my hearing yesterday and my employer was a no show. They went ahead and obtained my testimony. They were pretty matter of fact about it. I didn't expect anything different and I don't have a 'read' of their determination.

        It can't be in the best interests of my employer to not show up for the hearing if they were planning to challenge my appeal, right?




        • #5
          Normally, if an employer does not show-up at a contested UI hearing, the claimant will be granted the UI benefits.

          Your case is different because you left voluntarily. You were not fired or laid-off. Thus, your case was not a contested case, per se.

          In your situation, the UI Hearing Officer is just going to apply the requirements to your facts. As the previous poster mentioned, one of the requirments of UI is that you are able and actively seeking work.

          What did you testify to? Did you say you were not sure if you could return to work? If so, I am certain you will be denied UI.

          Even if you are denied, all is not lost. I am sure you could qualify for Temporary Disability (TDI) and/or Permanent Disability. The TDI program has a related Vocational Rehab program which can help you adjust to working with your disability.

          Good Luck.

          Let us know what happens.


          • #6
            Actively Seeking Work

            Thanks for the continued feedback that I'm receiving from this forum. I appreciate this because this is no small matter to me.

            To answer your question about my testimony, here are a few excerpts:

            Question: Was your employer aware of the reason for your leaving?
            Answer: They were aware of my difficulties in working under the
            conditions in my building; i.e., being placed on the third floor
            in the fall of 2004 when they were aware of my illness back
            in the spring of 2004. Also I complained about the lack of
            climate control in the building and how it was impacting my
            symptoms. Last June the heat index in my classroom was
            over 100 degrees. The excessive heat caused an
            exacerbation of my symptoms.

            Question: Couldn't they have put you on the first floor? Would that
            have helped? That certainly would have solved the issue
            I have with repetitive tasks (stair climbing). Even though
            they knew in Spring 2004 about my illness, the
            administrators put me on the third floor. They decided that
            each grade level of students would be placed on a separate
            floor and my grade was assigned to be there.

            Question: What types of symptoms do you experience?
            Answer: Chief complaint is fatigue, difficulty in doing repetitive tasks,
            etc. (see my original post for more details; I just reiterated
            to the appeals examiner what I wrote in the post)

            Question: Did your doctor tell you to quit your job?
            Answer: No. We haven't had that conversation. He told me to take it
            one day at a time and see what I can manage on a daily

            Question: Are you able to work?
            Answer: Yes, I believe I am able to work, but I couldn't continue to
            do so under those circumstances. Some days are better
            than others, even when I'm home. However, if I can
            manage my environment (keep it cool in the summer),
            pace myself, use organizers and lists, then I can function
            pretty well.

            Question: Did you consider working part time?
            Answer: I had no indication from my employer that scaling back my
            work was an option. They were already down to only two
            full time science teachers for my grade level and were using
            substitute teachers for the other two positions. I did think
            about that, but it wouldn't have solved the environmental

            Question: What were the names of your supervisors?
            Answers: Jane Doe is the head of HR.
            Question: Yes, I have that name but was there anyone else? Did
            you have more than one supervisor in your building?
            Answer: Yes and I can give you their names. They can corroborate
            my testimony about their knowledge of my illness.

            Interestingly (to me anyway), he didn't ask for their names, although I was very specific in my appeal letter. I don't know what to make of that.
            The other questions related to personal data like name, address, start date of employment, etc. We entered into evidence specific documentation that I had submitted and assigned numbers to each. He said that he had no more questions for me. I was asked to give a closing statement and I stated that I'm at a point in my life where I need to assess how I can continue in my profession. I told him that I have been pursuing faculty positions through distance education on the college level. Having control over my environment and how I manage getting tasks completed will enable me to remain gainfully employed while dealing with a chronic illness. I have had some success with this as I have been offered a position which starts after the holidays.

            As I've been thinking about this I've been second guessing myself. Was I aggressive enough dealing with my employer? I didn't know much about the ADA, my rights, etc. until I had to deal with this hearing. Did my employer bear some level of responsibility to inform me of my rights under the ADA laws? Aren't they required to have some sort of information for employees about this?

            Anyway, as you said, perhaps all is not lost. I may have other options should the appeal be denied. It's hard for me to know just where I fit in. I don't consider myself disabled to the point where I'm unable to work. I was unable to work in my former situation and I do have limitations. We shall see what happens. I will keep you informed.

            Thanks for your feedback.




            • #7
              I could guess what he is going to decide but that really doesn't help you.

              All that I can say is good luck. Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders.

              I am sure things will work out for you!!!

              Good Luck!!!!


              • #8
                Thank you!

                Just a word of thanks for your supportive comments and input to those who have concerns about labor law issues. I'm sure that I speak for the members of this forum when I say that your feedback is greatly appreciated!




                • #9
                  Time line?

                  Based on anyone's experience or knowledge, what's the time line for the appeals process? I'm anxious to know where things stand for me, but I don't want to expect an answer soon if the process takes weeks rather than days.



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