This opinion will be unpublished and may

not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C8-99-1149

 

 

James E. Edwards,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Progress Casting Group,

Respondent,

 

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Respondent.

 

 

Filed March 21, 2000

Reversed and remanded

Lansing, Judge

 

Minnesota Department of Economic Security

Agency File No. 2068UC99

 

 

James E. Edwards, 3905 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55412 (pro se relator)

 

Progress Casting Group, c/o ADP-UCS, P. O. Box 6501-8501, Diamond Bar, CA 91765-8501 (respondent employer)

 

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

 

            Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

LANSING, Judge

            A discharged electrician appeals the denial of reemployment-insurance benefits.  Because the absence of specific findings on intentional misconduct precludes reasonable review, we reverse and remand for additional findings and, if necessary, further proceedings.

FACTS

            James Edwards worked for Progress Casting Group as an electrician from July 13 to July 31, 1998.  On July 31, 1998, he was arrested on a drug charge and detained first in Minnesota and then in Indiana.  Edwards testified that he called Progress Casting after his arrest and again after his release in January 1999.  Progress Casting believed that Edwards had quit when he failed to return to work after July 31, and terminated his employment on August 10, 1998.

            Edwards applied for reemployment-insurance benefits in February 1999.  The department denied benefits, concluding that the employment separation was voluntary and not for good cause attributable to his employer.  On appeal, a reemployment-insurance judge found that Edwards’s failure to appear for work was not voluntary, but that his extended absence constituted misconduct and justified disqualification.  On appeal from that decision, the commissioner’s representative determined that Edwards committed misconduct because his absence “was caused by his own action in violating the law.”  Edwards appeals the finding of misconduct, arguing that he could not return to work because he was detained and unable to post bail and that the charge against him was ultimately dismissed.

D E C I S I O N

            An employee discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving reemployment-insurance benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (1998).  The employer has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that an employee has committed misconduct.  Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).  Whether an employee has committed misconduct presents a mixed question of fact and law.  Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).  Although we defer to the commissioner’s findings of fact if they are reasonably supported by the record, we review de novo whether the actions constitute misconduct.  Smith v. Employers’ Overload Co., 314 N.W.2d 220, 221 (Minn. 1981).

            In affirming the denial of reemployment-insurance benefits, the commissioner’s representative found that Edwards had been employed full time as an electrician for Progress Casting, that he was arrested and charged with a drug offense, that he was incarcerated for six months, and that he was told he no longer had a job because he did not report for continuing work.  On these findings, the commissioner’s representative concluded that “[i]nsofar as claimant’s six-month absence from work was caused by his own action in violating the law,” his absence constituted misconduct.

            On this record, we have insufficient factual findings to determine the basis for Edwards’s detention.  Absence from work due to incarceration for criminal acts disqualifies an employee from receiving reemployment-insurance benefits.  See Grushus v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 257 Minn. 171, 176, 100 N.W.2d 516, 520 (1960) (incarceration for criminal acts not “good cause” for failure to accept work); Smith v. American Indian Chem. Dependency Diversion Project, 343 N.W.2d 43, 45 (Minn. App. 1984) (incarceration for failure to pay speeding tickets constituted misconduct because employee unavailable for work through own fault).  But the circumstances are different when an employee is illegally detained or when, after a lengthy incarceration, the employee may be released without prosecution or found not guilty.  Grushus, 257 Minn. at 176, 100 N.W.2d at 520.  The critical issue in determining misconduct is whether the employee’s behavior caused his failure to report to work.  See Moeller v. Minnesota Dep’t of Transp., 281 N.W.2d 879, 882 (Minn. 1979) (focusing on reasonable efforts of employee to retain job); Winkler v. Park Refuse Serv., Inc., 361 N.W.2d 120, 124 (Minn. App. 1985) (construing Grushus, Moeller, and Smith); see also Holmes v. Review Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 451 N.E.2d 83, 87 (Ind. 1983) (denying unemployment benefits to person who was incarcerated for charges that were dismissed denies that person the presumption of innocence).

Edwards maintains that he was detained pending trial because he could not post bail and that the charges were later dismissed.  The commissioner’s representative has made no finding on the basis or outcome of Edwards’s detention.  Thus, we have no context in which to evaluate the commissioner’s conclusion that Edwards committed misconduct “[i]nsofar as [his] six-month absence from work was caused by his own action in violating the law.”  We find nothing in the record that indicates the existence or extent of a violation of law.

            Because the commissioner’s representative’s order fails to address and is devoid of findings on the reasons for Edwards’s detention, we remand for further proceedings.  See Grushus, 257 Minn. at 176, 100 N.W.2d at 520 (commissioner has responsibility of finding facts on fault).  Upon remand, the record may be reopened and additional evidence may be taken at the discretion of the commissioner’s representative.

            Reversed and remanded.