This opinion will be unpublished and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

C5-00-1245

 

 

Alton S. Edwards,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Longview Fibre Company,

Respondent,

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Respondent.

 

Filed April 24, 2001

Affirmed

G. Barry Anderson, Judge

 

Department of Economic Security

Agency File No. 283100

 

 

Alton S. Edwards, 5740 East River Road, Apt. 107, Fridley, MN  55432-6118 (pro se relator)

 

Kent E. Todd, Commissioner, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN  55101; and

 

Richard A. Beens, Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, P.A., 601 Second Avenue South, 4200 First Bank Place, Minneapolis, MN  55402-4302 (for respondent Longview Fibre Company)

 

            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, G. Barry Anderson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

 

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

 

G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge

            The representative for the Commissioner of Economic Security concluded that relator Alton S. Edwards, discharged for dishonesty, committed employment misconduct that disqualified him from receiving benefits.  Relator seeks certiorari review, arguing that he was not afforded a disciplinary hearing as provided in his labor contract.  Because the relator’s contract claim was not before the representative and relator’s dishonesty constitutes disqualifying employment misconduct, we affirm.

FACTS

            From July 1999 to December 9, 1999, Longview Fibre Company employed relator Alton S. Edwards as a maintenance mechanic.  Relator, while on duty, left the plant and returned 20 or 30 minutes later.  He had not asked for permission to leave or punched out as required.     After he returned, his supervisor, Darla Peterson, who had seen him leave the premises, told relator that if he left the plant, he was to punch out and let someone know.  According to Peterson, relator responded, “I had to get my keys.  You do what you got to do.”  The next morning, relator told a maintenance supervisor, Dean Penney, that he had done Penney “a favor” by getting relator’s keys the night before.  When company officials investigated the incident, relator denied leaving work and denied having conversations with Peterson or Penney about keys.  After the meeting, Longview Fibre discharged relator.

            Following a hearing, a reemployment law judge determined relator was disqualified from receiving reemployment benefits.  The representative of the Commissioner of Economic Security concluded that relator’s dishonesty constituted disqualifying employment misconduct and affirmed the decision.  Relator seeks certiorari review.       

D E C I S I O N

            Pro se relator contends that his labor agreement required a hearing before any discharge, and attaches to his brief Longview Fibre’s disciplinary policy.  While the six-step progressive disciplinary policy mentions “meetings,” no “hearing” is required.[1]  Because relator’s contract claim was not raised in the administrative proceedings below and is outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Economic Security, we do not address it.  See E.N. v. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, 603 N.W.2d 344, 348 (Minn. App. 1999) (general rule that matters not raised below are not addressed on appeal extends to appeals from administrative decisions); see also Minn. Stat. § 268.101 (2000) (providing for the administrative hearing process for reemployment insurance eligibility determinations made under the Minnesota economic security law). 

            We nevertheless treat relator’s argument as a challenge to the commissioner’s representative’s conclusion that he committed disqualifying misconduct within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (Supp. 1999).  A discharged employee is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits if the discharge resulted from misconduct that interfered with and adversely affected employment.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4 (1) (Supp. 1999).  A determination by the commissioner’s representative that an employee committed misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law.  Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).  The representative’s factual findings are viewed in the light most favorable to the decision and will not be disturbed if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them.  White v. Metropolitan Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).  Because relator does not challenge the representative’s findings, we review de novo the legal question of whether those findings support a misconduct determination.  Cook v. Playworks, 541 N.W.2d 366, 368 (Minn. App. 1996). 

            Longview Fibre discharged relator because he left the plant site without permission and without punching out and failed to honestly answer questions regarding the incident.  The commissioner’s representative determined that relator’s dishonesty constituted misconduct and disqualified him from receiving reemployment benefits.  Employment misconduct is defined by statute, which reads, in relevant part:

 (a)  Employment misconduct means:

 

(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.

 

(b) Inefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, poor performance because of inability or incapacity, or absence because of illness or injury with proper notice to the employer, are not employment misconduct.

 

Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (Supp. 1999).  “A single incident where an employee deliberately chooses a course of action adverse to the employer can constitute misconduct.”  Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 524 (Minn. 1989).

            An employee’s dishonesty during the course of an employer’s investigation into possible misconduct is a “deliberate violation of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee.”  Cherveny v. 10,0000 Auto Parts, 353 N.W.2d 685, 688 (Minn. App. 1984) (citation and quotation omitted); see also Blau v. Masters Rest. Assocs., 345 N.W.2d 791, 793 (Minn. App. 1984) (misconduct determination upheld where employee dishonestly answered questions about having permission to leave the workplace).  The commissioner’s representative found that (1) one supervisor witnessed relator leave the plant without permission; (2) another recounted how relator told him about leaving during his December 5 shift to get a set of keys; and (3) when confronted by management, relator denied leaving his workplace or speaking to his supervisors about any absence.  These findings are unchallenged, and we conclude relator’s refusal to acknowledge his act of leaving the plant and dishonest answers to his employer’s questions about his absence meet the statutory definition of misconduct.  

            Accordingly, we hold that relator’s misconduct disqualified him from receiving reemployment benefits. 

Affirmed.

 



[1]  More importantly, the disciplinary policy expressly provides that “different types of misconduct may require the elimination of some or all of the [six] steps.”