Lori E. Christensen, Relator, vs. Visual Edge, Inc., Respondent, Commissioner of Economic Security, Respondent.
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Lori E. Christensen,
Visual Edge, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed May 29, 2001
Department of Economic Security
File No. 438900
Lori E. Christensen, 2516 Homewood Place, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (pro se relator)
Visual Edge, Inc., N-236 North Garden Court, Bloomington, MN 55425 (respondent)
Kent E. Todd, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the decision of the commissioner's representative that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Because the record supports the determination that relator quit without good reason caused by her employer, we affirm.
Respondent Visual Edge employed relator as an optician. On May 3, 2000, she was scheduled to work until 9:00 p.m. At about noon that day, her supervisors met with her to discuss what they deemed to be her disrespectful and uncooperative behavior toward her co-workers and her insubordinate behavior toward her supervisors, and they asked her to sign a warning. Relator refused to sign the warning because she disagreed with some of the wording, and she became increasingly upset. Her supervisors told her that if she left work early, they would consider her action a resignation; she nevertheless left before her scheduled shift ended.
The department denied relator's application for unemployment benefits, but an unemployment-law judge reversed the decision. Respondent then sought review. The commissioner's representative determined that relator quit employment without good reason caused by her employer and was disqualified from receiving benefits. Relator seeks certiorari review of the decision.
D E C I S I O N
An appellate court will defer to factual findings of the commissioner's representative. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). Such findings will be upheld if they are reasonably supported by the evidence. Id. The appellate court may exercise its independent judgment on questions of law. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1983).
The first issue is whether relator quit work or was discharged. A quit occurs when a "decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee's." Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2000). A discharge occurs "when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer will no longer allow the employee to work for the employer in any capacity." Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5(a) (2000). Whether an employee quit or was discharged is a question of fact. Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985).
Relator contends that her supervisors insisted that she turn in her keys if she left work early on May 3, 2000, and that the only reasonable explanation for this request was that her supervisors had decided to terminate her employment. Based on what she characterizes as undisputed facts, relator contends that as a matter of law her employer discharged her. The commissioner's representative, however, considered relator's earlier statements on her application to the department for benefits and during a telephone interview that she quit her job. In addition, although relator was told on May 3 that her employer needed her to complete her shift, she refused to do so. Relator left early, even though her supervisors told her they would consider such an action to be a resignation. Under these facts, the commissioner's representative could reasonably find that she quit her employment. See Souder v. Ziegler, Inc., 424 N.W.2d 834, 837 (Minn. App. 1988) (upholding determination that employee quit when employee refused to sign warning and walked off job). The fact that the employer asked for the office keys under these circumstances does not convert relator's quit to a discharge.
Relator argues in the alternative that she had good reason to quit. An applicant who quits employment because of good reason caused by the employer is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2000). "Good reason caused by the employer" is defined as a reason
(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; and
(2) that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a) (2000). It must be "real, not imaginary, substantial not trifling, and reasonable, not whimsical." Ferguson v. Department of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976) (citation omitted). Whether an employee has good reason to quit is a question of law. Edward v. Sentinel Mgmt. Co., 611 N.W.2d 366, 367 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2000).
Relator cites complications from her pregnancy and stress from her job as good reason. The commissioner's representative did not find this argument compelling because there was no medical documentation in the record to support a finding that working conditions adversely affected relator's or her baby's health, that she requested accommodation for her pregnancy, or that management illegally discriminated against her because of her pregnancy. Further, when relator complained to the company's president about her hours, they were able to arrive at a schedule that was acceptable to her. The commissioner's representative found no showing that her supervisors acted unreasonably or without justification when they denied her a pay raise or warned her about her unsatisfactory behavior toward her co-workers and her supervisors. The commissioner's representative's finding is reasonably supported by the evidence. See Tuff, 526 N.W.2d at 51 (holding that appellate court will uphold findings by commissioner's representative if reasonably supported by the evidence).