This opinion will be unpublished and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

C7-00-985

 

Sheri J. Veenhuis,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

United Parcel Service, Inc.,

Respondent,

 

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Respondent.

 

Filed January 30, 2001

Affirmed

Willis, Judge

 

Department of Economic Security

File No. 416599

 

Sheri J. Veenhuis, 1920 9th Street, White Bear Lake, MN  55110 (pro se relator)

 

Daniel G. Wilczek, Angela M. Crandall, Faegre & Benson, LLP, 2200 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent United Parcel Service, Inc.)

 

Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent Commissioner)

 

            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

            Relator challenges a determination by the commissioner’s representative that she is disqualified from receiving reemployment-compensation benefits.[1]  Because we conclude that the record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s finding that Veenhuis was discharged for misconduct, we affirm.

FACTS

Relator Sheri Veenhuis began working part-time for respondent United Parcel Service (UPS) in 1983.  Veenhuis’s work schedule required her to work four hours per day or until her work was completed.  She was discharged for leaving work early without her supervisor’s permission on several occasions in 1998 and 1999.

The final incident occurred in October 1999.  On that occasion, Veenhuis worked for four hours and then started to leave after giving her timecard to a supervisor.  The supervisor told her that she needed to stay until her work was completed.  Veenhuis responded that she had worked for four hours and was going home.  The supervisor told Veenhuis that if she left, it would be deemed “job abandonment.”  Veenhuis left, and her employment was terminated the following day.

            Later that month, the Department of Economic Security issued a determination that Veenhuis was not disqualified from receiving reemployment-compensation benefits because her alleged behavior did not constitute misconduct.  A reemployment-compensation judge affirmed the department’s decision.  The commissioner’s representative reversed the reemployment-compensation judge, concluding that Veenhuis was discharged for misconduct, that is, her pattern of leaving early without permission, despite repeated warnings that she could be discharged for doing so.  Veenhuis appeals to this court by writ of certiorari.

D E C I S I O N

An individual who is discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving reemployment-compensation benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (Supp. 1999).  Whether an employee has engaged in disqualifying misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law.  McCourtney v. Imprimis Tech., Inc., 465 N.W.2d 721, 724 (Minn. App. 1991).  This court will affirm the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact if they are reasonably supported by the record and if the conclusion on those facts is not contrary to the statutory mandate.  Isse v. Alamo Rent-A-Car, 590 N.W.2d 137, 139 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 1999).

Veenhuis asserts that she was only supposed to work four hours per day, not until the work was completed, and that she was never warned that she could be discharged if she did not seek her supervisor’s permission to leave early. The commissioner’s representative found that (1) Veenhuis was warned on “several occasions by [her] supervisors that she was expected to continue working until the work was done,” (2) she was told not to leave early unless she had a supervisor’s permission, and (3) her refusal to abide by her supervisor’s orders, despite warnings, resulted in her discharge.

In addition to the October 1999 incident, the record contains other evidence supporting the commissioner’s representative’s finding that Veenhuis committed misconduct.  First, in December 1998, Veenhuis left work early without permission.  Her supervisor testified that, the following day, she told Veenhuis that “her shift requires her to stay until the work is done and that she needed to get [a] supervisor’s approval” to leave before her work was completed.  Her supervisor also testified that Veenhuis was told that further occurrences would result in disciplinary action, although Veenhuis denies receiving such a warning.  In February 1999, Veenhuis asked a supervisor if she could leave early and was told that, depending on the volume of work to be completed, her supervisor would “get her out as soon as possible.”  She was given permission to leave early but left before the agreed-on time.  Her supervisor testified that after this incident, she again told Veenhuis that she was not to “walk off the job” until her work was done unless she first spoke to one of her supervisors.  She also reminded Veenhuis that disciplinary action would result if this behavior continued.

Later, in March 1999, Veenhuis accepted another position with UPS at a different location.  On her last day at the original location, she again left early without permission.  For alleged medical reasons, Veenhuis did not adapt well at the new location and returned to the original location the following day.  Upon her return, she met with a manager who testified that he told her that if she walked off the job again without informing her supervisor her employment would be terminated.  Veenhuis became upset after this conversation and again left without approval.  The following evening she met with two managers who explained to her that she must not leave without permission and that her work schedule revolved around the amount of work to be done; not an hourly schedule.  They also iterated that she could be terminated if she “walked off the job” again without approval.

Under Minnesota’s reemployment-compensation scheme, misconduct includes

(1) 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;  or

 

(2) negligent or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job, that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment.

 

Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (Supp. 1999).  This court has held that even “a single incident can be misconduct if it represents a sufficient enough disregard for the employer’s expectations.”  Blau v. Masters Restaurant Assocs., 345 N.W.2d 791, 794 (Minn. App. 1984) (citation omitted).  And an employee’s refusal to follow reasonable instructions can be considered misconduct.  Bibeau v. Resistance Tech., Inc., 411 N.W.2d 29, 32 (Minn. App. 1987).  Further, the supreme court held that leaving work early, without a supervisor’s approval, constitutes misconduct.  See Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984) (holding that waitress was disqualified from benefits when she left work for another engagement after being told by employer that she could not leave until her work was completed); see also Hollar v. Richard Mfg. Co., 346 N.W.2d 692, 694 (Minn. App. 1984) (affirming finding of misconduct for failure to work assigned overtime).

Veenhuis’s decisions to leave work repeatedly without permission, despite warnings that her employment would be terminated, represented a disregard for the standard of behavior that UPS had a right to expect of her.  There is record evidence that reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s conclusion that Veenhuis’s behavior constituted disqualifying misconduct.

Affirmed.



                * Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Effective April 7, 2000, the legislature changed the program name from reemployment compensation to unemployment insurance and redesignated reemployment-compensation benefits as unemployment benefits and reemployment-compensation judges as unemployment-law judges.  2000 Minn. Laws ch. 343.  Because Veenhuis’s claim was filed and the reemployment-compensation judge issued a decision before the effective date of the amendments, we use the previous terminology.