This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Joyce K. Parson,
St. Louis Park Public Schools,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed August 28, 2001
Department of Economic Security
Agency File No. 931200
Joyce K. Parson, 4005-12th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (relator pro se)
Kent E. Todd, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
††††††††††† Relator was held to be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits after the commissionerís representative determined that neither good cause attributable to her employer nor a serious illness was the basis for quitting her job.† Because we see no error of law in that determination, we affirm.
During the 1999-2000 school year, relator Joyce Parsons worked for respondent St. Louis Park Public Schools as a special education paraprofessional in a middle school (the school).† She was assigned to the Time-Out room to work with disruptive students who had been excluded from class.† Relatorís duties included counseling the students, helping them with their academic work, and serving as a liaison between them and their teachers.
Relator had considerable stress in her personal life.† She was the primary caregiver for her husband, a victim of multiple sclerosis.† One of her close friends committed suicide.† Relator herself has been under a doctorís care for depression.
In August 2000, the supervisor of the special education program told relator that during the coming school year her assignment would be working with children in the MMI room who are mildly to moderately impaired.† Her duties would include helping these children with toilet and other personal-care needs.
Relator was upset by the reassignment, and she let both her supervisor and co-workers know she was distressed.† Relator explained that she had to provide personal care for her husband at home and did not want to be doing the same sort of thing at work.† On a form she was asked to complete stating her personal job targets, relator complained that she was unhappy with her job, that she felt she had not been given adequate notice of the change, and that she felt she should be paid more for working in the MMI room.† She also referred to her own mental health problems and her friendís suicide.
In response to the form, the principal, the supervisor, and the special education teacher met with relator.† The principal said that, because relator was a contract employee, he could do nothing about her pay, but he responded to relatorís other problems by giving her guaranteed ten-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon and a 30-minute lunch break.† Relator agreed to continue working in the MMI room, and the principal, the supervisor, and the special education teacher all thought that the matter had been resolved.†
Despite this, relator worked only two more days, September 19 and 20, in the MMI room.† She called in sick on September 21 and 22.† Relatorís illness involved difficulty breathing that she thought was stress-related.† She made an appointment with a doctor for September 26.† On September 25, relator called the school, said she was under too much stress, and gave two weeksí notice of her resignation.† Relator also said she would return to school after seeing her doctor the next day and would work past her termination date if the school could not find a replacement.† She mentioned her friendís suicide and that she herself had called a crisis line.
Based on this call, school personnel feared relator might be suicidal and called the police.† The police took relator to a hospital, where she spent a night in the psychiatric ward.† The following morning, the hospital psychiatrist agreed with relator that she was not suicidal and she was released.† Relator went to her doctor that afternoon; the doctor thought her illness might be strep throat.
Because relator was extremely angry with the school for involving the police, she did not return to work.† Finally, on October 3, the school wrote to relator noting that she (1) had been absent for a week and a half, (2) had told various school personnel that she was quitting, (3) had not submitted a resignation in writing, and (4) had not been a school employee since September 20, which school administration assumed to be her last day of work.
On October 6, relator applied for unemployment insurance benefits.† A department of economic security adjudicator found that she was disqualified.† She appealed, and after a hearing at which the school did not appear, the unemployment law judge affirmed the departmental finding.† Relator again appealed, and the commissionerís representative affirmed the unemployment law judge, determining that relator was not entitled to unemployment benefits because she quit her job without good cause attributable to her employer and because no serious illness made it medically necessary for her to quit.† Relator now challenges this determination by writ of certiorari.
D E C I S I O N
The ultimate determination of whether an employee is disqualified from receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law that this court reviews de novo.† Ress v. Abott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W. 2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
1.†††††††† Good Cause
††††††††††† An employee who quits without good reason caused by the employer is disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits.† Minn. Stat. ß 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2000).† The determination that an employee quit without good reason attributable to the employer is a legal conclusion, but must be based on findings that have requisite evidentiary support.† See Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978) (interpreting predecessor statute, requiring good cause attributable to employer).
††††††††††† The findings here are based on the evidence.† Relator claims that by transferring her from the Time-Out room to the MMI room, the school gave her good cause to quit.† But the commissionerís representative found that
[t]he [s]chool provided a legitimate reason for reserving the right to exercise flexibility in adjusting staff assignments in the special education program, when necessary, in order to meet the changing needs of the students.
This finding was based on the schoolís written justification of the change in relatorís job duties:
Within the special educator assignments, flexibility in tasks and students is expected at any levelóyear to year, month to month, week to week based on the needs of the program.† As students come in, leave the program or the students, their skill level, capabilities and/or disabilities change [sic] we may need to adjust the para-educatorís assignment to meet these changes.
Accordingly, there is evidence that supports the commissionerís representativeís finding.
††††††††††† Moreover, relator does not dispute the schoolís right or its need to change her assignment.† She simply argues that, because she found the new assignment stressful and unpleasant, she had good cause to quit her job.† The commissionerís representative made two points relevant to this argument:† first, school officials met with relator and agreed to alter her job conditions by giving her more break time, but relator worked only two days under the new conditions, and second, relator agreed to continue working indefinitely until a replacement was found, although her job was supposedly intolerable.
The change in relatorís assignment was not good cause to quit.
2.†††††††† Serious Illness
††††††††††† An applicant is not disqualified from unemployment benefits if the applicant quits
because the applicantís serious illness or injury made it medically necessary that the applicant quit, provided that the applicant made reasonable efforts to remain in that employment in spite of the serious illness or injury.
††††††††††† Reasonable efforts * * * require that the applicant inform the employer of the serious illness or injury and request accommodation.
Minn. Stat. ß 268.095, subd. 1(7) (2000).† There are no medical reports in the record. The hearing transcript shows that relator was angry that the school had inferred a mental condition from her phone conversation and that she thought the inference was unwarranted.† There is no evidence of serious illness.
Nor is there any evidence that relator made reasonable efforts to remain employed.† The school submitted evidence that it had
a job posting system that allows any employee to apply for any open positions that they are qualified for.† There were three open para-educator positions during the time that [relator] was not satisfied with her new assignment.† She did not apply for any of those positions.†
The commissionerís representative found that relator
was depressed, under stress, and was suffering from a physical ailment that may have been strep throat. * * * However, there was no medical documentation in the record to support a finding that [relatorís] mental or physical condition had deteriorated to the point that it was medically necessary for her to quit.† By [relatorís] own admission, she did not consider herself to be mentally ill, and neither she nor the hospital psychiatrist deemed it necessary for her to be hospitalized.
* * * There was no showing that [relator] provided the [employer] with medical documentation in support of a request for medical leave or a request for reasonable accommodation. There was no showing that [relator] made any other reasonable efforts to remain in the [employerís] employ in spite of her condition.
The record supports these findings.† Relator does not fall under the ďserious illnessĒ exception, and she did not quit her job with good cause attributable to her employer.