Change NJ Unemployment Laws; Our Children are "Good Cause"

Change NJ Unemployment Laws; Our Children are "Good Cause"

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April Sirleaf started this petition to New Jersey State House and

I am April Sirleaf, the mother of Andrew Sirleaf; an incredible 4-year-old boy that was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.   I am writing in hope to change the unemployment laws in NJ that turn their back on families faced with medical emergencies like my family is going through.

Imagine this; one moment you are living a happy life with two healthy children and the next moment, you find out your son has leukemia, your job is unwilling to accommodate, and the state you live in determines you resigned “without good cause.”  The stress, heartache and disgust I am faced with is something I plan on seeing no one else will have to go through. 

While things have been very difficult not only emotionally but financially as well, we are fortunate enough to have incredible support around us.  We are not forced to choose between putting food on our table or being able to support our child through treatment, but there are many families that are.  It is disgraceful that when emergencies like this arise, the state of New Jersey can disqualify someone for unemployment benefits that have been paid into by the employee.  Let me give you a little back story to show you why I am in this position.

Andrew was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on August 3, 2018. He will be undergoing over 3 years of chemotherapy. As you can imagine, this shocking diagnosis not only is an emotional nightmare, but it has created great financial hardship for my family.  I have since lost my job, and we are now a single income family with an influx of medical bills for Andrew, as well as another son, Justice, who is 1 year old.

When Andrew was first diagnosed, I went to my employer and spoke to them about my son’s diagnosis and discussed briefly what my intentions were.  While at that moment I was unable to return to work, I knew that I would have to return in the coming months as we need the additional income.  On December 28, 2017 I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Justice, as a result used all my FMLA time to care for him; who would have known only months later my son Andrew would be diagnosed with Leukemia.  At that time, I was told my position could be held for 1 month, maybe 2.  I informed them that upon my return if an issue arose, I would need to leave to get my son to the hospital and that clinic appointments are expected to be once a week. I provided a letter from our treating hospital which explained his diagnosis and asked for understanding while he is in treatment.

I received an email from my employer asking what my intentions were regarding my current position.  I responded that it was a very difficult question to answer and asked what my options were. While I would have loved to keep my current role, I was unsure if they were willing to accommodate such emergencies in that position.  Prior to my son’s diagnosis I was working 50+ hours weekly and most weeks, 6 days a week.  While I was able to meet those expectations upon my return, I needed to ensure I would be able to be there for my son’s treatment without disciplinary action or animosity.

I later received an email from my employer with an attached letter.  The letter stated that it was clear I was unable to meet the expectations of my current role, so they gave me two options.  Take a part time role (one in which I was not trained to do, nor was comparable to my current role) or they accept my resignation if I do not accept the part time role and return by October 1st, 2018. I responded to this letter stating that in no way was this a resignation, but neither option provided accommodate or are conducive to this difficult situation. I said I wanted to return but hoped we could come up with a solution that worked for this unique and very difficult situation.  If I returned to my current role, they were unwilling to accommodate my son’s treatment and the part time role did not give me the ability to fiscally care for my family.

Time went by and I did not hear from my employer. I began looking on job boards in the event they laid me off.  It was at that time I saw that my role was posted on indeed.com. Due to their lack of response to my email and my position being posted I came to the realization I was laid off.  On October 1st I applied for unemployment.  

I received one payment from unemployment and was under the impression all was ok.  The following week when it was time to claim again, it said that my claim was not payable at this time.  I contacted unemployment and was told that my employer stated I quit, and they were sending me a questionnaire to fill out.  I filled out the questionnaire and sent it back.  I then got a letter stating that there was going to be a phone hearing.  My hearing was conducted without my employer present, but they did submit a statement and all email correspondence.  My hearing was on a Friday afternoon.  On Monday, I received a mailed notice that I was disqualified for benefits.  The noticed stated my employer participated in the call, which they did not and stated that I quit “without good cause.”  I then appealed to the Board of Review.  In my appeal to the Board of Review along with addressing that I did not quit I also addressed the statement that we both participated in the hearing (which was untrue) and the rather quick and rash decision what was made by the examiner. Unfortunately, I just received word they will not be overturning the Appeal Tribunal decision.  I did not quit my job yet my employer at the state of New Jersey say I did, resulting in a disqualification.

Currently in the state of New Jersey one is disqualified for benefits if it is determined they quit “without good cause attributed to work.”   I agree that if someone is to quit because they don’t like their job they should be disqualified; but in situations like mine, where you are dealing with a child diagnosed with a life-threatening disease they shouldn’t be held to the same standard.  These two situations are in no way the same and should not be treated as such.  

Please join me in changing the New Jersey Unemployment law to give much needed support to families that are fighting for their child’s life. OUR CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES DESERVE BETTER!  No family should be forced to choose between putting food on their table or being able to comfort and support their child during treatment.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!