This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Precision Associates, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
File No. 461899
Decebal Stoican, 1212 Yale Place #359, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (relator pro se)
Precision Associates, Inc., 740 Washington Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (respondent)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Relator’s application for reemployment benefits was denied based on a determination that he was discharged for misconduct. On appeal, he contends that his actions during and following a dispute at work do not rise to the level of misconduct. Because we find that he committed misconduct, we affirm.
From September 1997 to November 1, 1999, relator Decebal Stoican worked full-time as a machinist for respondent Precision Associates. On October 29, 1999, relator’s supervisor, Ed Morrow, confronted him about his use of a caliper. Morrow told relator that using the caliper for centering would damage it. A heated confrontation followed. Morrow subsequently told machine-shop manager Jim Oletzke that he would no longer work with relator unless there were changes in relator’s behavior. Morrow then left.
Shop supervisor Bob Gulbranson, who witnessed the altercation between Morrow and relator, also discussed it with Oletzke. Oletzke told relator that he should go home, but relator refused. Oletzke then took relator into his office. Relator demanded to talk with someone in a position higher than Oletzke. In response, Oletzke instructed relator to remain in his office while he tried to locate his supervisor. Relator remained there for a few minutes and then returned to work without permission.
Oletzke told relator to clock out and take the rest of the day off. Relator refused. Oletzke then punched relator’s card, but he again refused to leave. Gulbranson, Oletzke, and relator returned to the office. The managers told relator that if he had to be escorted out, he would be fired. According to Oletzke and Gulbranson, relator then stood up and intentionally banged his head hard twice on the conference table and fell down. Relator testified that he hit his head on his hand in frustration and then he tripped and fell on his way out. Oletzke called 911. He told Gulbranson to watch relator and wait for the police to arrive. Soon after, relator got up, took his jacket, and waited for the emergency services to arrive. The paramedics assessed relator and took him to a medical facility for further tests. Relator was discharged from employment on November 1, 1999, as a result of his conduct on October 29, 1999.
Relator filed a claim for reemployment compensation benefits. A department claims representative determined that relator was discharged for misconduct and denied his claim. Relator appealed. Following an evidentiary hearing, the reemployment compensation judge upheld the denial of benefits. Respondent appealed to the Commissioner of Economic Security. A commissioner’s representative remanded for a new hearing because parts of the tapes from the previous hearing were inaudible and because the limited use of an interpreter created questions about the ability of relator, who is Romanian, to understand the testimony and evidence presented. After the re-hearing, the reemployment compensation judge again denied benefits. Relator appealed and the commissioner’s representative upheld the reemployment compensation judge’s decision. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Whether an employee committed disqualifying misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law. Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984). A determination whether the employee committed a particular act or acts is a question of fact. Scheunemann v. Radisson S. Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997). Whether the acts constitute misconduct is a question of law on which this court is “free to exercise its independent judgment.” Ress v. Abbott NW Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
1. Factual Findings
On appeal, this court reviews the decision of the commissioner’s representative, not the decision of the reemployment compensation judge. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). The commissioner’s representative’s factual findings must be viewed in the light most favorable to the decision and will be sustained on appeal if there is evidence reasonably supporting them. McGowan v. Executive Express Transp. Enters., Inc., 420 N.W.2d 592, 594 (Minn. 1988). The commissioner’s representative found that relator had been told to follow instructions from his supervisor. In addition, the commissioner’s representative found that relator refused to leave the premises after the confrontation with Morrow. Finally, the representative found that relator was discharged from employment due to insubordination related to his conduct on October 29, 1999. Although relator disputes details of the facts—whether he fell because he intentionally hit his head on the table or because he tripped—other facts of the October 29 incident are undisputed: there was a confrontation between relator and Morrow, relator refused to leave work when asked to do so, relator fell after hitting his head, and emergency services were called. The factual findings, viewed in the light most favorable to the commissioner’s representative, support the commissioner’s representative’s finding that relator committed the acts alleged to be misconduct.
An employee who is discharged from employment for “employment misconduct” is disqualified from receiving reemployment compensation benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000). The issue on appeal is not whether the termination was fair, but whether, now that relator is unemployed, he should be denied unemployment compensation benefits. Fujan v. Ruffridge-Johnson Equip., 535 N.W.2d 393, 395 (Minn. App. 1995). Whether an employee committed disqualifying misconduct “is a question of law upon which [the court] remains free to exercise its independent judgment.” Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996) (quotation omitted).
Relator argues that his behavior on October 29, 1999, does not meet the statutory definition of misconduct. Minnesota law defines “employment misconduct” as
any intentional conduct, on the job or off the job, that disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect of the employee or disregards the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a)(1) (2000).
To establish whether an employee has committed conduct of a nature to warrant losing benefits, we consider:
(1) whether an employee deliberately violated standards of behavior which the employer has a right to expect of its employees, (2) whether an employee’s conduct adversely affected the business or other employee’s morale, and (3) whether an employee ignored past warnings.
Ress, 448 N.W.2d at 524 (citing Auger v. Gillette Co., 303 N.W.2d 255, 257 (Minn. 1981)).
Here, relator’s conduct caused one employee to refuse to work with him, thereby affecting the morale of a co-worker. Although relator’s past behavior was not the reason for the termination, past warnings play a role in the analysis of what constitutes misconduct under the statute. The past warnings demonstrate both that the behavior of relator was in willful disregard of the employer’s standards of behavior and that relator was aware of the impropriety of his behavior.
Relator contends that his failure to remain in Oletzke’s office was not “misconduct,” but rather an attempt to comply with the employer’s expectations. He asserts that returning to work was in his employer’s best interest and asking him to stay in the office was, therefore, an unreasonable request. In general, if an employer’s request is reasonable, the employee’s refusal to comply with the request constitutes misconduct. Soussi v. Blue & White Serv. Corp., 498 N.W.2d 316, 318 (Minn. App. 1993). Here, management asked an employee to take off a half day of work to mollify a confrontation between the employee and his supervisor. It is reasonable for an employer to expect employees to follow directions from a supervisor, even if the employee does not agree that it is the best course of action.
Relator maintains that he intended to leave as instructed, but because emergency services were called, he thought he should remain on the premises. Relying on Fujan, relator argues that the focus of the inquiry into what is misconduct is the subjective intent of the person accused of the misconduct. 535 N.W.2d at 396. According to relator, his subjective intent was to comply with his employer’s request to leave, but he was unable to follow his employer’s instructions—as he wished to do—because he believed he had to wait for emergency services to arrive. Relator’s argument is flawed, however, because there were other objective bases for his termination. In addition to the failure to vacate the premises, relator was terminated for insubordination toward his supervisor.
Viewing the totality of the evidence, it is sufficient to support the commissioner’s representative’s decision that relator committed misconduct and is thereby disqualified from receiving benefits.
 Relator also argues that he was discharged “because the company was unable to tolerate [his] ethnicity and failed to follow its non-discrimination policy by knowingly allowing other employees to use racial epithets.” But relator fails to support the argument and there is insufficient evidence in the record to support this allegation.