This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
In the Matter of:
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
File No. 18-99
James R. Bill, 129 First Street Southeast, Madelia, MN 56062 (pro se relator)
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Coloplast Corp., Attn. Carol Holland, P.O. Box 8300, Mankato, MN 56002 (respondent employer)
Relator brings a certiorari appeal from the commissioner’s representative’s decision affirming denial of reemployment benefits because he quit without good reason caused by his employer. Relator quit because he believed his supervisor instructed him to violate company policy and FDA regulations regarding paperwork to be completed incident to pharmaceutical packaging; relator had argued with his supervisor about this issue one week earlier. We reverse.
Relator James R. Bill worked full-time as a pharmaceutical packager for respondent Coloplast Corporation from July 1998 through May 9, 1999. He averaged 36 hours per week, working from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Relator’s employment was problem-free, and in April 1999, supervisor Kevin Mock gave relator a positive performance review, noting relator showed good attention to detail and to the accuracy and quality of his work.
Relator’s job duties on the packaging line included placing bottles and inserts in boxes. Federal regulations require certain inspections and accompanying paperwork be completed for each packaging line. The regulations state:
There shall be written procedures designed to assure that correct labels, labeling, and packaging materials are used for drug products; such written procedures shall be followed. These procedures shall incorporate the following features:
* * * *
(c) Identification of the drug product with a lot or control number that permits determination of the history of the manufacture and control of the batch.
(d) Examination of packaging and labeling materials for suitability and correctness before packaging operations, and documentation of such examination in the batch production record.
(e) Inspection of the packaging and labeling facilities immediately before use to assure that all drug products have been removed from previous operations. Inspection shall also be made to assure that packaging and labeling materials not suitable for subsequent operations have been removed. Results of inspection shall be documented in the batch production records.
FDA Packaging and Labeling Operations, 21 C.F.R. § 211.130 (1999) (emphasis added).
Appellant believed that it was proper procedure under the FDA regulations and under company policy to complete the inspections and paperwork before beginning a packaging line. He had previously raised this concern with Mock, his supervisor, when Mock asked him to complete the required paperwork on a line that had already begun.
On May 2, 1999, relator and Mock argued about the proper timing of the inspections and paperwork after Mock asked relator to do the paperwork on a line that had already begun. Relator reiterated to Mock his concern that the paperwork should have been done before the line began but reluctantly agreed to do the paperwork after the line had begun “one last time.”
On Sunday, May 9, 1999, a packaging line had begun at approximately 5:30 a.m. and was in progress when relator started his 7:00 a.m. shift. No one had done the paperwork for that line, and Mock asked relator to do it. Relator refused, and a profanity-laced argument ensued, with both men yelling at each other. Relator decided to quit, informed Mock, and left the plant at about 7:30 AM.
Mock called production manager Rolle Maxey, and they discussed the situation on Monday. On May 12, 1999, Maxey sent relator a letter notifying him his employment had been terminated for leaving the plant mid-shift without permission. Approximately one day later, relator asked for his job back but was denied.
Relator filed for reemployment benefits but was denied for having been discharged for misconduct. Relator appealed, and a reemployment judge held a hearing at which relator and Maxey testified. Relator testified he quit after the argument on May 9 and had no intention of returning. He also testified he understood the paperwork must be completed before a packaging run begins, and a copy of the pertinent federal regulations (21 C.F.R. § 211.130) was entered into the record. Maxey testified that the preferred procedure is to complete the inspection and paperwork before beginning a packaging run.
The reemployment judge modified the denial of benefits, now finding that relator quit without a good reason attributable to his employer. Relator appealed the decision, and the commissioner’s representative affirmed the denial of benefits, concluding relator had quit his job for no good reason. Relator filed for a writ of certiorari, claiming he had good reason to quit. We agree and reverse.
An employee who quits employment is disqualified from reemployment benefits unless the employee quit because of a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (1998). The employee bears the burden of proving there was good cause to quit. Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978); see also Erb v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 601 N.W.2d 716, 718 (Minn. App. 1999) (recognizing statutory language changed from “good cause” to “good reason” in 1997, but terminology similar enough to permit use of caselaw interpreting “good cause” requirement when applying “good reason” requirement). Whether an employee quit for good cause is a question of law that this court reviews de novo. Kehoe v. Minnesota Dep't of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 890 (Minn. App. 1997). A good reason is one
(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; and
(2) that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3 (1998).
Good cause to quit has been defined as a reason that is “real, not imaginary, substantial not trifling, and reasonable, not whimsical.” Ferguson v. Department of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976) (quotation omitted). In determining good cause, the standard is “reasonableness as applied to the average man or woman, and not to the supersensitive.” Id. (quotation omitted).
Relator argues that because Mock insisted relator complete the inspections and paperwork in violation of the regulations, relator was justified in quitting. We agree. The clear language of the regulations indicates the work should be done before beginning packaging runs. Maxey, the packaging manager, testified it was preferable to complete the paperwork before packaging began. Relator’s reason for quitting was based on his concern for following company procedure and the federal guidelines. Mock’s failure to see that inspections and paperwork were completed before the lines began ignored the regulations and relator’s commitment to protecting the integrity of the product. In addition, relator’s argument with Mock about the same problem one week earlier, when he told Mock he thought it was improper to complete the paperwork after a production run had begun and told Mock to never ask him to do so again, gave his employer notice of the objectionable working conditions. See Burtman v. Dealers Discount Supply, 347 N.W.2d 292, 294 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding employee who quit because of employer’s insistence on objectionable sales tactics did not have good reason to quit where he failed to notify employer of his objections), review denied (Minn. July 26, 1984).
Under these circumstances, relator had a good reason to quit that was attributable to his employer, and he is not disqualified from receiving benefits.