The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear two appellate division cases about unemployment benefits because both unanimous rulings contradict one another. The question needing to be answered is whether or not employees who leave for a new job – and that job evaporates – are eligible for unemployment benefits.
In the first case, McClain v. Board of Review, the appellate division panel fond that an employee does not lose their benefits if through no fault of their own a new positions disappears or is no longer available. In that decision, the court stated, “[a] claimant need not actually start the new employment to be exempt from disqualification.”
Unfortunately for New Jersey employers and employees, a second appellate court panel found an exact opposite ruling only a month following McClain. In Blake v. Board of Review the decision was that that an employee cannot be awarded benefits unless he or she actually begins working at the second job. The court commented in that ruling that it “…respectfully disagree[s] with our colleagues and conclude that the … exemption does not apply unless the employee accepts employment with another employer which commences not more than seven days after the individual leaves employment with the first employer.”
The passage of the New Jersey statute that seems to be the speed bump is in reference to a job “which commences.” There is no clear language to indicate if “commencing” means you’ve started logging hours or are in the process of beginning to log hours. It appears the Supreme Court will decide what “commencing” is for employees changing jobs.