Colleen Matschi, Relator, vs. BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota, 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This opinion will be unpublished and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

C3-01-606

 

Colleen Matschi,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota,

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Respondent.

 

 

Filed October 23, 2001

Affirmed

Amundson, Judge

 

 

Colleen Matschi, 2932 Lisbon Avenue North, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 (pro se relator)

 

Kent E. Todd, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

AMUNDSON, Judge

            The commissioner's representative determined that relator quit without good cause attributable to her employer and was disqualified from receiving benefits.  Relator seeks   review, contending that she had good cause to quit because of a serious illness after she made reasonable efforts to retain her employment.  We affirm.

FACTS

            Colleen Matschi worked as a senior business consultant for BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota (BlueCross) from December 1988 to May 2000.  In January 1999, she volunteered to work on a new project and was transferred to a different supervisor. Matschi met only infrequently with the new supervisor, who, according to Matschi, appeared not to support the project and minimized Matschi's contributions to meetings.  It seemed to Matschi that the vice-presidents who were supposed to work together on the project did not get along and did not provide proper feedback to employees.

            Matschi requested work on other projects and applied for two other jobs within the company but did not receive them.  Even though she was increasingly disappointed with her work environment, she never complained to her superiors.  According to Matschi, this was because she believed that she would then be treated even more badly.  Because of her work-related stress, Matschi began seeing a psychologist, Anne Byer-Rajput.  Byer-Rajput diagnosed Matschi with major depression, placed her on medication, and recommended that she leave employment at BlueCross because, she opined, the working environment significantly contributed to Matschi's depression. 

            Matschi quit her job on May 1, 2000.  At the exit interview and in her letter of resignation, she did not say anything about her medical problems.  According to Matschi, she remained silent because she wanted to maintain a professional appearance, did not trust her supervisors, and did not believe the exit interviews were used for anything.  Jim Burnett, Diversity Coordinator at BlueCross, also indicated that when Matschi resigned there was nothing to indicate her dissatisfaction with the company as an employer.  Her company medical file contained no information about her medical problems.

            Matschi set up a benefit account with the Department of Economic Security.  The department found that she quit for medical reasons on the advice of her physician and awarded her benefits.  BlueCross appealed, and an unemployment law judge affirmed the department's determination.  On further appeal, the commissioner's representative determined that Matschi did not have good reason, caused by BlueCross, for quitting, and that no other exception for disqualification applied.

D E C I S I O N

Matschi first argues that the commissioner's representative's decision was in error because she had a legally sufficient reason for quitting.  When reviewing a decision by the commissioner's representative, this court is to use a narrow standard of review and accept the findings of fact if the evidence reasonably tends to sustain them.  White v. Metropolitan Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).  The issue of whether an employee had good reason to quit is a question of law which this court reviews de novo.  Biegner v. Bloomington Chrysler/Plymouth, Inc., 426 N. W. 2d 483, 485 (Minn. App. 1988). 

An applicant who quits employment because of a good reason caused by the employer shall not be disqualified from receiving benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (1) (Supp. 1999).  A good reason caused by the employer is one that is "directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible" and "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) (1), (2) (Supp. 1999).  

 In 1997, the "good reason" language was adopted, replacing the prior statutory requirement of "good cause."  Erb v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec.,601 N.W.2d 716, 718(Minn. App. 1999).  However, the terminology is similar enough that the previous case law interpreting "good cause" is used to assist in the application of "good reason."  Id.  "Good cause to quit" does not include an employee's irreconcilable differences with others at work or an employee's frustration or dissatisfaction with working conditions.  Trego v. Hennepin Cty. Family Day Care Ass'n., 409 N.W.2d 23, 26 (Minn. App. 1987);  see also Bongiovanni v. Vanlor Investments, 370 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. App. 1995) (personalityconflictthat resulted in employer making it clear he wanted employee fired, not talking to employee, and greatly reducing her work duties did not create good cause to resign)

Matschi reported significant difficulty in communicating with her supervisor and frustration with a perceived inability to take her work seriously.  But these problems do not rise to the level that the courts have found to provide good reason to quit and collect unemployment.  No sexual harassment, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurred.  Matschi's hours, salary or working conditions were not changed.  Therefore, we find that the commissioner did not err in determining that she did not have good reason caused by her employer to quit her job. 

Alternatively, Matchi argues that she met the "serious illness" exception to the disqualification rule.  An employee meets this exception if she quits because of a serious illness or injury after having made reasonable efforts to retain her employment. Minn. Stat. §  268.095, subd. 1 (7) (Supp. 1999). 

Reasonable efforts to remain in that employment are those a reasonable individual would make if interested in remaining with the employer and require that the applicant inform the employer of the serious illness or injury and request accommodation.

Id.  It is undisputed that Matschi suffered from depression and that her psychologist recommended that she leave her job because it was seriously contributing to her illness.  She also attempted to seek other responsibilities within the company.  But the plain language of the statute requires that she also inform the employer of her medical condition and request accommodation for that condition.  This she failed to do.  This failure precludes her from receiving benefits under the serious illness exception.  See Prescott v. Moorhead State Univ., 457 N.W.2d 270, 273 (Minn. App. 1990) (relator disqualified from serious illness exception where he failed to inform his employer before resigning that he suffered from depression).

Affirmed.