Determined the availability of unemployment insurance under New York law for a victim of domestic violence who leaves her job to relocate in order to escape abuser.
T.M.P's former fiance had beaten her in the past but after he beat one of her children in front of her other children, she decided it was time to leave. She quit her job at a New York hospital to move from the Bronx to Albany, NY, so that he would not know where she was. Once in Albany, she applied for and received a protective order against her fiance.
T.M.P. also applied for unemployment insurance benefits. New York law provides that an individual who quits work because of "circumstances directly resulting from the claimant being a victim of domestic violence" is eligible for benefits. The claims officer hearing the case determined that the credible evidence established that T.M.P. had left her job because of her fear of her abusive fiance. However, her claim was denied on the grounds that she had failed to make "reasonable efforts" to maintain her job by staying in the Bronx and seeking a protective order.
Legal Momentum, together with South Brooklyn Legal Services and MFY Legal Services, filed a amicus brief arguing that it was improper to impose a judge-made "reasonable efforts" standard that is not in the law. The brief also demonstrated that requiring claimants to obtain a protective order in order to receive benefits would undermine the legislative purpose of the law. Since many victims do not seek protective orders (in some cases, seeking a protective order may actually increase the likelihood of future violence), such a requirement would leave many intended beneficiaries of the law without the economic security they need to separate effectively from abusive relationships.
After briefs were filed in the appeal, the Appeals Board reopened the matter and reversed its prior decision. T.M.P. was granted benefits.