This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
File No. 2936 UC 99
Brandon V. Lawhead, Lawhead Law Offices, 301 South Main Street, Austin, MN 55912 (for relator)
Jeffrey M. Kritzer, Dean K. Adams, Alderson, Ondov, Leonard, Sween & Rizzi, P.A., 105 East Oakland Avenue, P.O. Box 366, Austin, MN 55912-0366 (for respondent Wheel Estates)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Contending that he did not voluntarily quit his employment, relator challenges the disqualification decision of the commissioner’s representative. Because relator effectively made a voluntary decision to terminate his employment when he decided to sell his stock in the employer’s business, we affirm.
Relator, 47% owner of the family-owned business, Nelson’s Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park, Inc., worked for the business for approximately 30 years as its park manager. On October 1, 1998, the shareholders of the business sold all the stock of the business, and it is now known as Oakland Park, Inc. All of the shareholders, including relator, agreed to the sale. After the sale, relator applied for reemployment insurance.
At the reemployment insurance hearing, relator testified that he believed he or any other stockholder could have stopped the sale if they had wanted to, although he also testified that he did not have the percentage of shares necessary to control the decision to sell the business. Relator testified that when he agreed to sell the business, he believed the new owners had another person in mind to take over his job and that he had no reason to believe the new owners would hire him. A representative of the respondent employer testified that the employer believed relator was going to retire and no longer wanted a job, adding that the employer might have hired relator if it had known that relator still wanted to work. The reemployment insurance judge found that relator was due benefits because he was not a majority shareholder of the business and therefore lacked the power to prevent its sale.
On appeal, the commissioner’s representative found that relator “was a primary decision maker in deciding to sell the business,” that all the shareholders agreed to the sale, and that there “was no discussion between the claimant and the new owners concerning whether the claimant could continue in employment with the new owners.” The commissioner’s representative found that the record suggested “that the claimant wanted to leave his employment in order to pursue other options which possibly included retirement.” The commissioner’s representative decided that relator had “effective control,” was “an ultimate decision maker in the decision to sell the business,” and “could have prevented the sale of the business had he chose to do so.”
The ultimate issue of “whether a claimant is properly disqualified from the receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law,” which this court reviews de novo. Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 384 (Minn. 1982) (citation omitted). But the question of whether an employee voluntarily quit or was discharged is one of fact, and the representative’s finding on this issue will not be reversed if the evidence in the record reasonably tends to support it. Gonsior v. Alternative Staffing, Inc., 390 N.W.2d 801, 805 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Aug. 27, 1986).
A discharge “occurs when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employee's services are no longer desired by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5 (1998). Minnesota cases have held that where an employee “directly or indirectly exercises a free-will choice to leave the employment,” the employee has voluntarily quit. Shanahan v. District Memorial Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 896 (Minn. App. 1993).
The representative’s findings in this case are adequately supported by the evidence. In addition to evidence on his ability to stop the sale and on the employer’s belief that he wanted to retire, relator reported in his reemployment insurance application that the “new owners’ management policy [was] not to my liking or park residents.” It was reasonable for the commissioner’s representative to find that relator “directly or indirectly exercise[d] a free-will choice to leave the employment.”