This opinion will be unpublished and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

C2-00-2028

 

Daniel T. Barrett,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Multi-Tech Systems, Inc.,

Respondent,

 

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Respondent.

 

Filed May 29, 2001

Affirmed

Willis, Judge

 

Department of Economic Security

File No. 655600

 

Daniel T. Barrett, 10846 Buchanan Street NE, Blaine, MN  55434 (pro se relator)

 

Craig W. Trepanier, Jodi L. Johnson, Hinshaw & Culbertson, 3100 Piper Jaffray Tower, 222 South Ninth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent Multi-Tech Systems, Inc.)

 

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

 

            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, 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 he is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because of misconduct.  Because we conclude that the record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s decision, we affirm.

FACTS

Relator Daniel T. Barrett was employed by respondent Multi-Tech Systems, Inc. (Multi-Tech), a manufacturer of data-communications equipment.  His job as a support technician required that he respond to customer inquiries by telephone and e-mail.  Support technicians are also responsible for entering inquiries and complaints and their resolutions into a database.

In March 2000, Multi-Tech notified all of its support technicians of a new policy requiring that they e-mail copies of all responses to customer inquiries and complaints to an internal mailbox, called “p-support.”  Multi-Tech used the p-support mailbox to monitor customer inquiries and the responses by its technicians.

In June 2000, Multi-Tech placed Barrett on probation and warned him that if he did not meet his job responsibilities, such as entering the appropriate information into the database and p-support mailbox, his employment would be terminated.  Barrett admits that during his probation he failed to abide by his job requirements, but he maintains that he was overworked and did not receive adequate training.

In July 2000, Multi-Tech discharged Barrett from his employment for failing to follow policies and procedures.  The Department of Economic Security determined that Barrett was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because his acts constituted employee misconduct.  Barrett appealed, and an unemployment-law judge affirmed the department’s decision.  The commissioner’s representative affirmed the unemployment-law judge, and Barrett appeals to this court by writ of certiorari.

D E C I S I O N

Appellate review in economic security cases is narrow.  McGowan v. Executive Express Transp. Enters., 420 N.W.2d 592, 594 (Minn. 1988).  When reviewing a determination of the commissioner’s representative, appellate courts must consider whether there is reasonable support in the record to sustain the determination.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).   

An individual who is discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000).  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).  The determination of whether the employee committed a particular act or acts is a question of fact.  Tilseth v. Midwest Lumber Co., 295 Minn. 372, 375, 204 N.W.2d 644, 645-46 (1973); Scheunemann v. Radisson S. Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997).  Reviewing courts will not disturb the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings when, viewed in light most favorable to decision, those findings are reasonably supported by the evidence.  Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996).  But whether the act or acts constitute misconduct is a question of law on which appellate courts are “free to exercise [their] independent judgment.”  Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). 

            Misconduct disqualifying an employee from receiving unemployment benefits 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(a) (2000).

The commissioner’s representative determined that Barrett’s

continued pattern of failing to carry out his job responsibilities despite warnings showed intentional conduct that disregards standards of behavior which the employer had a right to expect of its employees.

 

During his testimony before the unemployment-law judge, Barrett acknowledged that his job required him to document all inquiries and responses by entering them into a database and forwarding them to the p-support mailbox.  Barrett’s supervisor testified that Barrett (1) had a history of entering fewer inquiries into the database than the number of inquiries he received and (2) was formally warned twice that failure to abide by these requirements could lead to termination of his employment.  From May 2000 through July 2000, Barrett entered only 10 of the 47 inquiries he received into the database.  He also neglected to forward a majority of the inquiries and his responses to the p-support mailbox even though he knew that all support technicians were required to do so.  Barrett did not inform his supervisor until June 2000, three months after the policy was implemented, that he did not know how to forward a copy of a response to the p-support mailbox.  Even after his supervisor showed him how to forward responses, Barrett repeatedly failed to do so.

            Barrett also acknowledged that he was required to resolve customer inquiries and problems “as quickly as possible.”  His supervisor testified that Multi-Tech encourages the technicians to respond to customers within 24 hours.  But an investigation by the company showed that, after 11 days, Barrett had failed to respond to two customers who contacted Multi-Tech for technical support.  When asked by the unemployment-law judge why he neglected to respond to the customers, Barrett responded that there were “too many calls.”  He also admitted that, at the time of his discharge, he had left 24 inquiries unanswered. 

This court has held that even “a single incident may constitute misconduct” if it represents a sufficient disregard for the employer’s expectations.  Wilson v. Comfort Bus Co., 491 N.W.2d 908 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Jan. 15, 1993).  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).  Here, the record shows that Barrett was aware of his job responsibilities and Multi-Tech had warned him that failure to follow Multi-Tech’s procedures could result in his discharge.[1]

Barrett’s failure to follow Multi-Tech’s procedures disregarded the standard of behavior that Multi-Tech had a right to expect of him.  The record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s conclusion that Barrett’s acts constituted disqualifying misconduct.

Affirmed.



[1] In its brief to this court, the commissioner’s representative argues that Barrett’s brief and appendix contain documents not included in the record.  In arriving at this decision, we considered only those matters properly in the record.