Can Schundler collect unemployment benefits? Unclear.

New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler was fired last week for allegedly lying to his boss, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie. He lost his job after allegedly misrepresenting a mistake that may have caused the state to lose $400 million in education funds. He told the press — amazingly — that he had opted to be fired instead of resigning because he wanted to collect unemployment benefits.

But that may not be an option — or at least not right away. In response to my inquiries, the New Jersey Department of Labor sent me and a handful of other reporters the following note on Friday night:

As a class of individuals, New Jersey cabinet officials are generally not eligible for unemployment benefits.  The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has previously determined, pursuant to NJSA 43:21-19(i)(1)(D)(iii)(ee), that commissioners of cabinet-level departments are “major non-tenured policy-making or advisory” employees and, accordingly, are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits.

Hours after I got this, the press release containing the information was “retracted.” I left a message asking for clarification, which will hopefully come this week.

Whether or not Schundler’s position makes him ineligible to collect benefits, Christie’s reforms could delay any benefit payout. One of Gov. Christie’s policy reforms was to delay unemployment benefits for those fired for “regular misconduct” for up to five weeks (and to ban them altogether for those fired for “gross misconduct,” although that appears to require the commission of a crime).

I received the retracted press release because I had asked — among other things — whether lying to one’s boss would constitute “misconduct.” That hasn’t been answered yet, either.

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