STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sartell Water Controls, Inc.,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed April 24, 2007
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Sartell Water Controls, Inc., 250 Riverside Avenue North, Sartell, MN 56377 (respondent)
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 Toussaint, Chief Judge; Wright, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
S Y L L A B U S
2. Minn. Stat. § 268.069, subd. 2 (2004), voids an employer’s agreement that an employee who chooses not to perform work available with the employer for a period of time will be eligible for unemployment benefits during that time.
O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
An unemployment law judge (ULJ) determined that relator Daniel J. Scheeler was not eligible for unemployment benefits. Relator seeks certiorari review of that determination; relator also moved this court for leave to offer proof of evidence not submitted before the ULJ’s determination. Because we see no error in the ULJ’s determination, we affirm; we deny the motion for leave to offer proof.
began work for respondent Sartell Water Controls, Inc. a/k/a DeZURIK Water
Controls, in February 1979. In the
summer of 2005, respondent wanted to reduce its workforce temporarily. It therefore offered employees the option of
quitting for 90 days, after which they would be recalled, and told them respondent
would not protest their eligibility for unemployment benefits during this
time. Relator chose this option and
stopped work after July 2005. In
September 2005, relator moved to
Respondent appealed and, following a January 2006 telephone hearing, a ULJ determined that relator was on voluntary leave of absence from July 31, 2005, to October 13, 2005, and was not eligible for benefits during that period, and that he quit his employment on October 14, 2005, and was not qualified for benefits thereafter.
Relator filed a request for reconsideration; the ULJ issued an order of affirmation of his previous decision. Relator challenges that decision.
Standard of Review
reviewing decisions of a ULJ, this court exercises its independent judgment
with respect to questions of law. See
Ress v. Abbott Nw. Hosp., Inc.,
448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (
1. Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13a(a) (2004)
“An applicant on a voluntary
leave of absence shall be ineligible for unemployment benefits for the duration
of the leave of absence.”
Respondent did not refer to the option it offered its employees of not working for a period of time as a voluntary leave of absence; it referred to the program as a “voluntary layoff.” Relator testified that respondent told him, “[Y]ou’re being placed on a 90 day voluntary layoff” and that he “took the layoff.” Respondent’s human resources representative corroborated this: she testified that respondent “proposed with the union to have a 90 day voluntary layoff . . . which [relator] signed up for.” But respondent’s “voluntary layoff” was actually a “voluntary leave of absence” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13a(a) (employee chooses not to perform work available with employer). The human resources representative answered, “Correct” when asked, “[A]s of July 29, [relator] could have continued work if he wanted to but he signed up for a lay off[?]” She again answered, “Correct,” when asked, “[I]f [relator] had not signed up he would have stayed working[?]” Because work was available with respondent and relator chose not to work, he was on a voluntary leave of absence within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13a(a), and is not eligible for benefits for that period.
2. Minn. Stat. § 268.069, subd. 2 (2004)
Relator argues that he is
eligible for benefits because respondent told employees who chose the voluntary
leave of absence that they could receive unemployment benefits without protest
from respondent. But, because
“[u]nemployment benefits are paid from state funds and shall not be considered
paid . . . by an employer[,]. . . any agreement between an applicant [for
benefits] and an employer shall not be binding on [the ULJ] in determining an
applicant’s entitlement” to benefits. Minn.
Stat. § 268.069, subd. 2 (2004).
Again, we see no ambiguity in the statute and apply its words according
to their plain meaning. See Reiter, 721 N.W.2d at 910; see also Rasidescu v. Comm’r of Econ. Sec., 644 N.W.2d 504 (Minn. App. 2002)
Moreover, a “contract violating law or public policy is void.” Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. v. Beens, 541 N.W.2d 354, 356 (Minn. App. 1995) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Feb. 27, 1996). Because the agreement between relator and respondent abrogated the ULJ’s legal right to decide eligibility for unemployment benefits, it is void.
Relator moves this court for leave to offer proof of evidence to be submitted on remand. In light of our affirmance of the ULJ, the motion is denied.
D E C I S I O N
Relator chose not to perform work available with respondent. Under Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13a(a) (2004), this was a voluntary leave of absence, and relator was ineligible for benefits for that period. Under Minn. Stat. § 268.069, subd. 2 (2004), respondent’s agreement that relator could apply for benefits during the voluntary leave of absence without opposition from respondent is void. We affirm the ULJ’s decision and, in light of that affirmation, deny relator’s motion for leave to offer proof of evidence to be submitted on remand.
Affirmed; motion denied.