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Benjamin v. NET, Inc.

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 31, 2013

MARY BENJAMIN, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,

Submitted: July 10, 2013

Court Below – Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County C.A. No. 12A-04-001

Before HOLLAND, BERGER and RIDGELY, Justices.

Randy J. Holland Justice

This 31st day of July 2013, it appears to the Court that:

1) The claimant-appellant, Mary Benjamin ("Benjamin"), appeals from a Superior Court decision affirming the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ("the Board") denial of unemployment benefits for her, on the basis that Benjamin voluntarily resigned from her employment with Employer-appellee, Northeast Treatment Centers, Inc. ("NET").

2) Benjamin raises one claim on appeal. She asserts that the Superior Court erred in affirming the Board's decision to deny her unemployment benefits because she contends there was not substantial evidence in the record which demonstrated that Benjamin voluntarily resigned from her position of employment with NET. We have concluded that substantial record evidence supports the Superior Court's judgment in favor of NET. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court must be affirmed.

3) Benjamin was employed as a youth counselor with NET from December 5, 2007 to September 7, 2011. Benjamin's employment ended pursuant to settlement negotiations between the parties for Benjamin to dismiss discrimination charges she filed against NET with the Delaware Department of Labor. The parties signed a settlement agreement which provided for Benjamin's voluntary resignation, in exchange for the payment of $5, 000.00. In addition, NET was to provide Benjamin with her accrued vacation time and health insurance and prescription benefits until December 31, 2011.

4) Under the settlement agreement's terms, the parties were to enter into an independent general release.[1] NET's obligations to provide Benjamin's health and prescription benefits were contingent upon execution of a general release. The settlement agreement sets September 8, 2011 as Benjamin's resignation date pending full execution of a general release, as follows:

Charging Party agrees to a voluntary resignation from her employment with Respondent as of September 8, 2011 and will provide Respondent with a resignation letter indicating September 8, 2011 as a resignation date pending the full execution of Respondent's General Release.

5) Counsel for NET emailed Benjamin's attorney a general release for Benjamin to sign. Benjamin testified that after reviewing the general release she was not satisfied with its terms and did not sign it. Benjamin informed her attorney that she—Benjamin—would not execute the release and "decided to drop the mediation process" in favor of returning to work if she could. According to Benjamin, she did not realize the general release would affect her ability to benefits. On September 22, Benjamin's attorney informed NET's attorney that Benjamin refused to sign the release.

6) NET's attorney replied that, without the signed general release, NET would not provide health insurance benefits after the end of September. NET's attorney also stated that NET accepted Benjamin's "voluntary oral resignation . . . made on September 8, 2011. . . in the presence of and through [her] attorney." On the same day, Benjamin wrote a letter to the Department of Labor explaining that she did not execute the general release because she felt concerned about its potential to (i) affect her ability to file workers' compensation claims and (ii) force her to pay for benefits through a COBRA plan. Benjamin also claimed she refused to execute the general release because she felt the process was rushed.

7) In October, 2011 Benjamin filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Board. A claims deputy denied her claim for the receipt of benefits due to her resignation without good cause from her employment with NET. Benjamin filed an appeal of the claims deputy's denial and an appeals referee affirmed the claims deputy's decision. Benjamin then filed an appeal to the full Board. The full Board affirmed the appeals referee's decision.

8) The Board relied upon Benjamin having signed the settlement agreement in consideration for her resignation as the basis for its conclusion that she voluntarily quit her employment without good ...

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