This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
Steven A. Carlson,
County of Carver,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
File No. 643000
Steven A. Carlson, 13532 Vincent Avenue South, Burnsville, MN 55337 (pro se relator)
Kari Schwinghammer Myrold, Carver County Government Center, Human Resource Department, 600 East Fourth Street, Chaska, MN 55318 (for respondent employer); and
Kent E. Todd, Commissioner of Economic Security, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
After relator lost a professional license, respondent-employer placed him on administrative leave while considering whether to discharge him. After a second review meeting, relator’s immediate supervisor telephoned him at his home and told him “he was going to be” discharged. To protect future job prospects, relator immediately tendered his resignation. When relator then applied for reemployment benefits, the representative of the commissioner of the Department of Economic Security determined that relator quit employment without good reason and was thereby precluded from collecting reemployment benefits. Because quitting employment in anticipation of future discharge is not a “good reason” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.095 (Supp. 1999), we affirm.
Respondent Carver County employed relator Steven A. Carlson, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist, as a mental-health worker from May 6, 1996 to February 15, 2000. Although he held two professional licenses, relator satisfied the requirements of his Carver County position by holding either one. On January 13, 2000, the Minnesota Board of Psychology revoked relator’s license as a psychologist for ethical violations. Relator told his immediate supervisor, Melanie Warm, that his license had been suspended, not revoked. Warm informed Carver County’s Director of Human Services, Gary Bjork, of the suspension.
On February 9, 2000, Bjork met with management to discuss the effect of the suspension on relator’s employment. At that meeting, Bjork and Carver County administrators learned that relator’s psychology license had been revoked, not suspended, and by letter dated February 10, Carver County placed relator on paid administrative leave pending further review of a possible discharge. The letter informed relator that Carver County administrators had scheduled a February 14 meeting to allow relator to appear and submit evidence before Carver County made a final determination.
After the February 14 meeting, the Carver County administration made no final determination. Because relator’s marriage therapy and family therapy license maintained his qualifications for his mental-health-worker position, Carver County administrators decided to ask affiliated hospitals if they would be willing to continue to work with relator based on the remaining license. On February 15, Melanie Warm telephoned relator and, according to relator, told him in an “unofficial statement” that he was “going to be” terminated and that he would receive an official termination letter. In response, to protect his chances for future employment, relator immediately sent a letter of resignation via facsimile to Carver County.
Relator then applied for reemployment benefits. The Minnesota Department of Economic Security determined that relator was eligible for reemployment benefits because Carver County discharged him for reasons other than employee misconduct. Carver County appealed the determination, and a reemployment-law judge affirmed the department’s determination. Carver County appealed to the commissioner. The commissioner’s representative concluded that relator’s resignation met the statutory definition of “quitting” employment without “good reason,” leaving him ineligible for reemployment benefits. Relator appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Relator disputes the commissioner’s representative’s determination that relator “quit” employment. The question of whether an employee quit or was discharged is one of fact. Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985). This court reviews the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative in the light most favorable to the decision and will not disturb them as long as there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain them. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
Employees who voluntarily quit employment are disqualified from receivingbenefits unless they quit “because of a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 1999). An employee quits employment within the meaning of the statute “when the decision to end employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.” Id., subd. 2(a). The legislature further clarified the definition of “quit” in 1999, stating that
[a]n employee who has been notified that the employee will be discharged in the future, who chooses to end the employment while employment in any capacity is still available, shall be considered to have quit the employment.
Id., subd. 2(b); 1999 Minn. Laws ch. 107, § 44. Cf. Fiskewold v. H.M. Smyth Co., Inc., 440 N.W.2d 164, 167 (Minn. App. 1989) (holding that employee who resigned two days before the known layoff date was entitled to benefits after effective date oflayoff). The commissioner’s representative determined that relator’s resignation, tendered after he “unofficially” learned from his supervisor that he would be discharged at some future date, fell squarely within the definition of “quit” in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(b).
This court has held that an employee who fails to return to work based on reasonable belief that he or she has been fired has not voluntarily terminated employment. Midland Elec., Inc., 372 N.W.2d at 812. However, if appellant believes that the February 15 telephone call from his supervisor constituted termination, that belief is unreasonable given the circumstances. In the record below and again on appeal, relator states that on February 15, his supervisor called to “tell him that he was going to be terminated” and that he could expect to receive a formal termination letter. Had the supervisor’s telephone call constituted a final termination decision, relator would have gained nothing by submitting a letter of resignation to protect his future job prospects. Because Carver County had not formally discharged relator at the time he ended his employment by letter of resignation, we conclude that the evidence reasonably tends to sustain the commissioner’s representative’s decision that appellant quit employment within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(b).
Relator seems to contend that if we determine that he quit within the meaning of the statute, we should find he did so for good cause because Carver County made it clear that he could no longer work there. Whether an employee has quit for a good reason is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978). “Good reason” is defined by statute as a reason “that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible” and “that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a)(1), (2) (Supp. 1999). But “[n]otification of discharge in the future, including a layoff due to lack of work, shall not be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.” Id., subd. 3(d). The commissioner’s representative determined that relator’s reason for quitting -- tendering his resignation to avoid discharge -- fell within subd. 3(d) and therefore was not a “good reason.”
Quitting to avoid disciplinary action by an employer is not a good reason caused by an employer within the meaning of the statute. See Ramirez v. Metro Waste Control Comm'n, 340 N.W.2d 355, 357-58 (Minn. App. 1983) (affirming decision that claimant did not quit employment because of good reason caused by employer where claimant resigned to avoid discharge); Bongiovanni v. Vanlor Invs., 370 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. App. 1985) (recognizing that employee who chooses to leave employment rather than have the employee’s employment status determined by a discharge authority has voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to the employer); see also Erb v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 601 N.W.2d 716, 718 (Minn. App. 1999) (explaining that this court looks to case law interpreting “good cause” when applying “good reason”). We hold that relator’s resignation, tendered to avoid future discharge, falls squarely within subdivision 3(d).
Because we conclude that relator quit employment without good cause, we need not reach Carver County’s argument that relator is ineligible for benefits because any termination was for reasons of misconduct.