This opinion will be unpublished and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
United Healthcare Services,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Reversed and remanded
Department of Economic Security
File No. 55799
Thomas G. Squire, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 300 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for relator)
United Healthcare Services, c/o The Frick Company, P.O. Box 283, St. Louis, MO 63166 (respondent)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Relator contends that the commissioner’s representative erred in failing to uphold her claim that she quit her employment because of her serious illness. Because her primary claim was presented but was not addressed by either the reemployment insurance judge or the commissioner’s representative, we reverse the decision that relator is disqualified from reemployment insurance benefits and remand for a determination of her claim.
Under Minnesota law, an employee who quits his or her position is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits, unless one of six circumstances is shown. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (1998). Under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1), a claimant is not disqualified if the quit was due to a “good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1). Under subd. 1(6), the claimant is not disqualified if the quit was due to a “serious illness” that makes quitting “medically necessary.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(6). With respect to this “serious illness” exception, the statute requires that the claimant make “reasonable efforts to remain in that employment in spite of the serious illness” and states that reasonable efforts require the claimant to “inform the employer of the serious illness and request accommodation.” Id.
At the hearing before the reemployment insurance judge, relator testified that the “main reason” she quit “was because of allergies and the environment at the office.” Subsequently, relator answered affirmatively when asked by the reemployment insurance judge whether she believed it was “medically necessary” for her to quit. In these proceedings, relator presented a note from her physician, dated May 14, 1999, which stated that “[b]ecause of her severe respiratory allergies and asthma, both of which are made worse by smoke exposure I have recommended that she be placed in her office setting in a portion of the office away from smokers.” Relator also testified that she spoke to three different individuals, on three occasions, beginning as early as January 1999, telling them of her difficulties with asthma and that her asthma was made worse by her proximity to smokers at work.
The reemployment insurance judge issued a decision denying relator’s claim and disqualifying her from benefits, describing the issue as whether relator “quit employment because of a good reason caused by the employer,” concluding relator “did not quit because of a good reason caused by the employer” and stating without explanation that “[n]o other exception to disqualification applies.”
Relator then appealed this determination and was at that point represented by counsel. Relator asserted that she quit due to a serious illness and contended that the reemployment insurance judge had erred in evaluating whether the employer’s accommodation efforts were reasonable, rather than determining whether she had made a “reasonable effort” to retain her employment. Relator also complained that the reemployment insurance judge decided her appeal on August 31, 1999, seven days after the hearing and without honoring her request on the record to hold the record open for her receipt and production of a letter from her physician, which she had not yet received. The commissioner’s representative, affirming the reemployment insurance judge, repeated the issue as announced by the judge, as whether relator quit her employment “without a good reason caused by the employer” and also concluded without explanation that “[n]o other exception to disqualification applies.”
In the administrative proceedings and on appeal, much discussion occurs regarding relator’s failure to deliver her physician’s note dated May 14, 1999, to her employer before her resignation on May 18, 1999. Relator testified that she was instructed to deliver medical reports only to a human resources representative and that this human resources representative was not in the office on May 18, 1999, the date of relator’s first day at work after receiving the note and also the date of her resignation.
On appeal, the commissioner asserts that relator’s reasonable effort to retain her employment would have included giving the physician’s note to someone else or giving it to the human-resources representative the next day. The reemployment insurance judge and the commissioner’s representative, in deliberating as to whether relator had “good reason to quit caused by her employer,” found it significant that relator had failed to deliver this note. But neither assessed whether she had made a “reasonable effort” to retain her job in light of evidence that she had made three previous reports to her employer concerning her health problems as affected by the secondhand smoke in the workplace. Similarly, assessing whether she had “good reason” to quit caused by her employer, the commissioner’s representative pointed to evidence that her employer had accommodated relator’s absences from work and had experienced space problems in finding an alternative place for relator to work. But this finding does not determine whether relator’s quitting remained necessary or whether she made “reasonable efforts” to remain in her employment.
Relator testified the “main reason” she quit was because of her allergies and the environment in the workplace. On appeal, the commissioner contends, without explanation, that the record does not show that it was “medically necessary” for relator to quit. The seriousness of her illness and the medical need for her to quit have not yet been determined in the administrative proceedings. This question requires evaluation of relator’s testimony, the content of her physician’s note dated May 14, 1999, and the subsequent explanatory letter from her physician, which is dated August 8, 1999.
Under the circumstances, the proceedings must be remanded for a determination as to whether relator suffered a serious illness, whether that illness made it medically necessary for relator to quit, whether she quit because of the illness, and whether she made reasonable efforts to retain her employment.
Reversed and remanded.