Michelle M. Dockter, Relator, vs. Warroad Care Center, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.Annotate this Case
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Michelle M. Dockter,
Warroad Care Center,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed September 11, 2007
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 8365 06
Michelle M. Dockter, 649 Marion County 4021, Everton, AR 72633-8079 (pro se relator)
Warroad Care Center, Inc., 611 Lake Street NE, Warroad, MN 56763-2311 (respondent employer)
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent department)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Wright, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the unemployment-law judge's (ULJ) decision disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits, arguing that the ULJ erred by finding that she quit without good reason caused by the employer. Because the ULJ did not err by finding that relator quit her job without good reason caused by the employer, we affirm.
Relator Michelle Dockter worked for the Warroad Care Center from June 1, 2005, until she quit on May 24, 2006. She was hired as a dietary aide and cook to work both morning and afternoon shifts, but she worked only as a cook when she quit. Prior to May 2006, Dockter usually worked between 28 to 32 hours per week.
Dockter met with her supervisor, Cindy Sanden, and administrator Rod Kutter in February 2006 and stated that she refused to continue working as a dietary aide. The managers told Dockter that morning-cook hours were available because the regular morning cook was on medical leave. But the managers also told her that she would have to pick up afternoon shifts or work the dietary-aide position when the morning cook returned.
Dockter missed a number of shifts in early 2006. On one occasion in early May 2006, Dockter left work in the middle of a shift to meet with her children's school principal. Dockter told Sanden that she was leaving, but when Sanden told Dockter that she could not cover her shift, Dockter asked "what the hell" she was supposed to do. Dockter alleges that Sanden responded with profanity. Dockter received a formal warning for using inappropriate language with her supervisor and for leaving without authorization.
Sanden and Geolene Kaml, director of nursing, met with Dockter and warned her about missing work. Dockter indicated that she could not work afternoon shifts, but Sanden reminded her that she was hired to work morning and afternoon shifts as a dietary aide and cook.
Dockter received her June 2006 work schedule on May 24, 2006, and she immediately left work and did not return. She was scheduled to work approximately 15 hours per week in June, and she claims she quit because her hours were cut.
Dockter applied for unemployment benefits, and a Department of Employment and Economic Development adjudicator determined that she was disqualified from receiving benefits. Dockter appealed, and after a hearing the ULJ found that Dockter quit without good reason caused by the employer and is disqualified to receive benefits. Dockter requested reconsideration, and the ULJ affirmed its decision. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Dockter contends that she is entitled to unemployment benefits because she quit for a good reason caused by her employer. She argues that (1) her supervisor swore at her on one occasion; (2) she received a warning for excessive absenteeism when she had to miss work on one of those occasions; and (3) that her employer reduced her hours.
This court may reverse or modify the decision of the ULJ if substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the decision is (1) a violation of constitutional provisions; (2) in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the department; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) affected by other error of law; (5) unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or (6) arbitrary or capricious. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006).
An employee who quits his or her employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits, unless the quit was "because of a good reason caused by the employer." Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2005). A good reason caused by the employer is a reason "(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; (2) that is adverse to the worker; and (3) that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment." Id., subd. 3(a) (2004).
When the employee is subject to adverse working conditions, the employee must notify the employer about the conditions and allow a reasonable opportunity for the employer to correct the conditions before they may be considered a good reason for quitting caused by the employer. Id., subd. 3(c) (2004). A substantial reduction in wages and a change in hours may constitute an adverse change in working conditions. Rootes v. Wal-Mart Assocs. Inc., 669 N.W.2d 416, 418 (Minn. App. 2003). But situations "where the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with his working conditions" do not constitute a good reason caused by the employer. Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). This court reviews de novo whether an employee had good cause to quit. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).
Dockter argues that she quit because Sanden swore at her on one occasion. But the record does not support Dockter's contention that Sanden used profanity during their May 4 exchange. There is conflicting evidence in the record about Sanden's alleged statement to Dockter, and the ULJ found that Sanden did not use profanity. We defer to the ULJ's determinations regarding witness credibility and conflicting evidence, and will not weigh the evidence on review. Skarhus v. Davanni's Inc., 721 N.W.2d 340, 344 (Minn. App. 2006) (deferring to ULJ's determinations regarding witness credibility and conflicting evidence); Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995) (stating that this court defers to the decision-maker's ability to weigh the evidence, and that "we may not weigh . . . evidence on review"). The ULJ's finding that Sanden did not swear at Dockter is supported by the record.
Next, Dockter argues that she quit for good reason caused by the employer because Warroad Care Center unfairly penalized her for missing work to meet with her children's principal. She contends that it was unfair to be reprimanded for missing work for a meeting that she was required to attend. The record shows that Dockter missed at least ten days of work in 2006, and she left work early only once, on May 4, to meet with her children's school principal. Warroad Care Center issued her a written warning stating the "need [for] cooks . . . [to] be here for their scheduled shift" and that leaving work early would not be tolerated. Because it is reasonable for employers to expect employees to work as scheduled and not to leave early, and because receiving a warning for excessive absenteeism would not cause an average, reasonable employee to quit, the warning did not create a good reason for Dockter to quit.
Finally, Dockter argues that she quit for good reason caused by the employer because her hours were reduced. We disagree. The record shows that Dockter substantially reduced her own hours by refusing to work certain shifts and by refusing to work as a dietary aide, and never consulted management after her hours were cut. Because Dockter effectively reduced her own hours and did not give Warroad Care Center the opportunity to correct her working conditions, Dockter's reduction in hours did not amount to a good reason to quit caused by the employer.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.