This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
William L. Haugan,
Minnesota Department of Agriculture,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
Agency File No. 486699
William L. Haugan, 705 Forest Avenue Southeast, Staples, MN 56479 (pro se relator)
Greg Buzicky, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 90 West Plato Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55107 (respondent employer)
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
A discharged hydrologist appeals the commissioner’s determination that his actions constituted employment misconduct that disqualified him from receiving reemployment benefits. Because the record supports the findings that establish employment misconduct within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (Supp. 1999), we affirm.
William Haugan worked as a hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) from May 1990 until October 1999. MDA discharged Haugan for a course of conduct that invoved violating MDA’s harassment policy, disregarding specific management directives, and violating a restraining order.
An MDA employee who worked with Haugan in MDA’s Staples office complained in June 1999 that Haugan treated her in a manner that was rude, controlling, and inappropriate. She also complained that Haugan telephoned her at home after work hours, despite her requests not to telephone her.
MDA began an investigation into the complaint and scheduled a meeting with Haugan. Haugan refused to attend the meeting even though he had been told it was mandatory. At a rescheduled meeting, Haugan’s supervisor and MDA’s section manager directed Haugan in writing that his principal work station was now the St. Paul office, that he was to have no contact with the complainant in the Staples office, and that all communication with employees in the Staples office must have prior approval from his supervisor or the section manager. Haugan did not comply with the written directive. On more than one occasion, he went to the Staples office and contacted employees in that office without authorization.
In late June 1999, the complainant in the Staples office petitioned the district court for a restraining order. The district court granted the petition and specifically admonished Haugan that no contact meant “no memos, no calls, no leaving calls, no leaving messages, no contact.” In late July 1999, MDA reprimanded Haugan in writing for disregarding the written directives and placed him on paid investigatory leave with instructions not to visit or contact any of the work locations.
Haugan again violated MDA’s written directives and the district court’s order by calling the complainant at home in September 1999. Haugan made the call from a store near the complainant’s house. Following his arrest for violating the restraining order, Haugan pleaded guilty to the violation on October 4, 1999.
MDA formally discharged Haugan for employment misconduct in late October 1999. In November 1999, the Department of Economic Security denied Haugan reemployment benefits. The reemployment compensation judge and the commissioner’s representative affirmed the denial, concluding that Haugan was discharged for misconduct within the meaning of the statute. Haugan now appeals the commissioner’s decision.
D E C I S I O N
An employee discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving reemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (Supp. 1999). Appellate review of a misconduct determination presents a mixed question of fact and law. Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984). We review the commissioner’s findings in the light most favorable to the decision and determine whether they are supported by the evidence. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996). Whether the facts meet the statutory standard for disqualification, however, is a question of law on which a reviewing court exercises independent judgment. Id.
Employment misconduct includes “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(1) (Supp. 1999). A refusal to comply with an employer’s reasonable request constitutes employment misconduct. Reed v. Minnesota Dep’t of Transp., 422 N.W.2d 537, 540 (Minn. App. 1988) (employee’s harassing conduct after employer’s reasonable request that employee discontinue harassment constituted employment misconduct), review denied (Minn. June 29, 1988). An employee’s disregard of an employer’s warnings also constitutes a basis for finding misconduct. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 524 (Minn. 1989) (employee who disregarded warning to follow physician’s recommendations and direct orders engaged in misconduct).
The commissioner’s representative found that Haugan treated his coworker in a rude, harassing, and inappropriate manner and that Haugan was insubordinate in a way that disrupted MDA’s business operation. The commissioner's representative further found that Haugan violated MDA’s directives to have no contact with the complaining employee, obtain prior authorization for contact with employees at the Staples office, attend a meeting to discuss the complainant’s allegations, and report to the St. Paul office, rather than the Staples office, on a daily basis.
The evidence supports the commissioner’s representative’s findings. The record confirms that Haugan went to the Staples office for an impermissible duration and purpose, telephoned the complaining employee in violation of both an employer directive and a district court restraining order, refused to report to a required meeting, failed to report to a reassigned work location, and violated MDA’s general harassment policy. Haugan’s intentional actions constituted a disregard of the written standards of behavior that MDA had a right to expect. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(1). The commissioner did not, therefore, err in concluding that Haugan was discharged for misconduct within the meaning of the statute.