Leaving work for medical reasons? Document, document, document…

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Can you qualify for unemployment benefits if you leave work for health or medical reasons?  Yes, under certain circumstances.

In a recent case, a 37-year Verizon employee tried to do just that, but the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, ruled against her claim.  A few years ago, the employee was diagnosed with cancer.  After treatment and surgery, she was unable to lift as much weight as before.  Lifting was one of her job duties.  She was assigned to special projects that did not involve lifting.  She applied for, but did not receive, a sedentary job with Verizon.  Then she resigned.

At the unemployment hearing, she stated that she did not provide any documentation of her medical limitations regarding the type of job she could perform.  She also did not provide medical documentation of an inability to work, which would have supported a medical need to resign.

While the employee’s initial application for unemployment was granted, Verizon appealed the decision and won because of the employee’s lack of medical documentation, which meant that the employee had left her employment voluntarily.  The employee appealed to the Appellate Division.

On appeal, the employee argued that she was medically unable to work at her last position and that she was medically qualified for a more sedentary position.  But according to the Appellate Division, New Jersey law states that medical certification supporting a finding of good cause attributable to work is required where an employee leaves work for health or medical reasons.  The medical condition must not be work related and there must be no other suitable work for which the employee is qualified.

Given that the employee did not provide proof of her medical limitations or the need to be assigned to a more sedentary position, the Appellate Division confirmed the denial of benefits and ordered that she repay any unemployment benefits that she already received.

Brown v. Board of Review, Docket No. A-5250-07T3, (NJ App Div 2009).

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