In the Matter of the Claim of YOLANDA COHEN, Respondent. NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CITYWIDE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, Appellant. COMMISSIONER OF LABOR, Respondent.
Calendar Date: June 2, 2017
Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, New York City
(Michael J. Pastor of counsel), for appellant.
Michelle I. Rosien, Philmont, for Yolanda Cohen, respondent.
T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, New York City (Linda D.
Joseph of counsel), for Commissioner of Labor, respondent.
Before: Peters, P.J., Garry, Egan Jr., Rose and Mulvey, JJ.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
from a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board,
filed February 11, 2015, which ruled that claimant was
entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
worked for the employer as a paralegal from 2007 to 2012,
during which time various disciplinary charges were lodged
against her. In February 2012, claimant and the employer
entered into a stipulation of settlement resolving the most
recent round of disciplinary infractions. Pursuant to the
terms of that stipulation, claimant would waive her right to
a Civil Service Law § 75 hearing and would resign
effective March 15, 2012. In the interim, claimant would be
allowed to collect her accrued annual leave and, going
forward, would receive a "neutral reference" from
the employer. Notably, the stipulation of settlement
contained no admission of misconduct, and no finding of
wrongdoing on the part of claimant was made.
subsequently filed an application for unemployment insurance
benefits, and the Department of Labor issued initial
determinations disqualifying claimant from receiving benefits
upon the grounds that she voluntarily left her employment
without good cause or, alternatively, lost her employment due
to misconduct. Following a lengthy hearing, an Administrative
Law Judge (hereinafter ALJ) overruled the initial
determinations, finding that claimant had good cause to
separate from her employment and had not otherwise committed
disqualifying misconduct. In so concluding, the ALJ found
that claimant had been subject to a hostile work environment.
The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board subsequently adopted
the ALJ's findings and affirmed the ALJ's decision,
prompting this appeal by the employer.
affirm. As a general proposition, a claimant who voluntarily
leaves his or her employment without good cause will not be
entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits (see
e.g. Matter of Flint-Jones [Federal Reserve Bankof N.Y.-
Commissioner of Labor], 144 A.D.3d 1288, 1288-1289
), and the same holds true for a claimant who engages
in disqualifying misconduct (see e.g. Matter of Trunzo
[Commissioner of Labor], 145 A.D.3d 1308, 1309 ).
That said, "[a] claimant who voluntarily leaves his or
her position in the face of disciplinary charges may qualify
for unemployment benefits if the actions did not amount to
misconduct" (Matter of Jimenez [New York County
Dist. Attorney's Off.-Commissioner of Labor], 20
A.D.3d 843, 843  [internal quotation marks and citation
omitted]; accord Matter of Cohen [Town of
Brookhaven-Commissioner of Labor], 91 A.D.3d 998, 998
, lv dismissed 19 N.Y.3d 831');">19 N.Y.3d 831 ;
Matter of Straw [Rocky Point Union Free School
Dist.-Commissioner of Labor], 32 A.D.3d 1098, 1099
). "Whether a claimant has engaged in
disqualifying misconduct is a factual question for the Board
to resolve and its determination will not be disturbed if
supported by substantial evidence" (Matter of
Oberman [New York City Dept. of Citywide Admin.
Servs.-Commissioner of Labor], 143 A.D.3d 1022, 1023
 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted];
see Matter of Trunzo [Commissioner of Labor], 145
A.D.3d at 1309).
and the employer's witnesses presented competing accounts
of claimant's work history, her work product, her general
demeanor and her interaction with others in her office.
Without recounting the extensive testimony offered on these
points, suffice it to say that the employer portrayed
claimant as an insubordinate malcontent who failed to timely
and appropriately complete assignments or respond to various
emails or directives. Claimant, on the other hand, testified
at length as to the "bullying" and harassment that
she endured at the hands of her supervisors, recounted the
manner in which she was verbally threatened by certain
individuals in her office and disputed the employer's
account of her overall work performance. This conflicting
testimony presented factual and credibility issues for the
Board to resolve (see Matter of Saunders [Life Adj. Ctr.,
Inc.-Commissioner of Labor], 106 A.D.3d 1317, 1317-1318
). As noted previously, the stipulation of settlement
entered into between claimant and the employer contained no
finding or admission of wrongdoing on the part of claimant.
Further, upon crediting claimant's testimony as to the
nature of her work environment and her reasons for resigning,
the Board agreed with the ALJ's findings that
claimant's actions did not rise to the level of
disqualifying misconduct but, rather, were undertaken in
direct response to her "hostile" and
"untenable" work environment - an environment that,
in turn, provided "a compelling reason for her to
resign." As there is substantial evidence to support the
Board's decision in this regard, it will not be disturbed
- despite the presence of other evidence in the record that
could support a contrary conclusion (see Matter of
Barrier Window Sys., Inc. [Commissioner of Labor], 149
A.D.3d 1373, 1375 ).
Peters, P.J., Garry, Rose and ...