This opinion will be unpublished and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
James M. Zangl,
Ridgedale Automotive, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed March 19, 2002
Department of Economic Security
File No. 263601
James M. Zangl, 14080 County Road 40, Carver, MN 55315 (pro se relator)
Ridgedale Automotive, Inc., 12520 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, MN 55305 (respondent)
Philip B. Byrne, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Foley, Judge.
Relator James Zangl challenges the commissioner’s representative’s finding that he was terminated for misconduct, resulting from working on his own vehicle while on company time without permission and despite warnings. Relator argues that the record does not support his termination for misconduct. We affirm.
On appeal from the denial of unemployment benefits based on misconduct, the determination of whether 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). Whether an employee committed particular acts is a fact question, and the determination of whether those acts constitute misconduct is a question of law. Scheunemann v. Radisson S. Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997). This court views the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings “in the light most favorable to the decision” and will not disturb the findings if there “is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them * * * .” White v. Metropolitan Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983). And where credibility is at issue, “this court must defer to the Commissioner’s ability to weigh the evidence[.]” Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995).
The evidentiary hearing is conducted by the unemployment compensation judge “without regard to any common law burden of proof as an evidence gathering inquiry and not an adversarial proceeding.” Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 1(b) (2000); see also Minn. Stat. §§ 268.069, subd. 2 (applicant’s entitlement to benefits shall be determined without regard to common law burden of proof), 268.101, subd. 2(d) (disqualification issue shall be determined without regard to common law burden of proof) (Supp. 2001). At the hearing and in the decision process “[t]here shall be no presumption of entitlement or nonentitlement to benefits.” Minn. Stat. § 268.069, subd. 2.
An employee who is discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000). Disqualifying misconduct is defined as
(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.
Id., subd. 6(a). An employee’s violation of an employer’s policies constitutes misconduct. Sivertson v. Sims Sec., Inc., 390 N.W.2d 868, 871 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Aug. 20, 1986). Even a single incident may constitute misconduct disqualifying an employee from unemployment benefits. Wilson v. Comfort Bus Co., Inc., 491 N.W.2d 908, 911 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Jan. 15, 1993). Whether the employee committed misconduct depends on the willfulness or wantonness of the employees’ behavior. Id. at 910. This is because the public policy of the state is to extend benefits only to those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Id. at 911.
Generally, an employee’s “knowing violation of an employer’s policies, rules, or reasonable requests constitutes misconduct.” Montgomery v. F & M Marquette Nat’l Bank, 384 N.W.2d 602, 604-05 (Minn. App. 1986) (failing to process $28,000 in overdrafts after being told they were a priority constituted misconduct) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. June 13, 1986). But generally for a violation to constitute misconduct, the rules must be reasonable and not impose an unreasonable burden on the employee. Sandstrom v. Douglas Mach. Corp., 372 N.W.2d 89, 91 (Minn. App. 1985). A good-faith misunderstanding of rules or policies is not misconduct. Tuckerman Optical Corp. v. Thoeny, 407 N.W.2d 491, 493 (Minn. App. 1987).
Here, the commissioner’s representative found that relator worked on his car during his work hours without permission and in violation of company policy, and was warned on several occasions by his supervisor not to repeat the action. Relator stated in his brief that company policy required only that an employee work on his own car on his own time, such as a break or before or after working hours. However, relator testified that he understood that company policy required him to ask permission to work on his car during business hours and that he had to be off duty. Relator stated he had asked for and received permission in the past, and it was always granted. But on the occasion in question, relator stated he did not ask permission because it “slipped” his mind. He also testified that when he finished working on his car, he left it in the stall until leaving for the day. Lastly, relator stated that he was at fault for working on his car without first obtaining permission. Testimony in the record from other employees supports the determination that the company policy required an employee to ask permission to work on his car during business hours and that the employee is “off the clock.” We conclude that relator was aware of the policy or did not make a good-faith mistake because he testified that he knew about the policy, he violated it, and it was his mistake.
Moreover, we conclude that the rule is reasonable. Relator receives wages to fix other people’s cars, not his own. Further, the space at the shop is limited and a supervisor can better determine if there is room for an employee’s car in its stalls. The record supports the determination that relator committed misconduct under the statute and therefore is not entitled to unemployment benefits.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.