This opinion will be unpublished and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

C9-01-2179

 

Abdi S. Jama,
Relator,

vs.

Advantek Inc. (1992),
Respondent,

Commissioner of Economic Security,
Respondent.

 

Filed July 16, 2002

Affirmed

Huspeni, Judge*

 

Department of Economic Security

File No. 591701

 

 

Abdi S. Jama, 2521 Pillsbury Avenue South #203, Minneapolis, MN 55404 (pro se relator)

 

Advantek Inc., 5801 Clear Water Drive, Minnetonka, MN 55343 (respondent employer)

 

Philip B. Byrne, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)

 

 

            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

 

HUSPENI, Judge

 

            Relator challenges the commissioner’s representative’s determination that he was terminated for misconduct, resulting from his repeated failure to follow employer procedures for handling and inspecting products.  Because the record demonstrates that appellant knew how to perform his job duties correctly, yet continually failed to follow procedures, we affirm.

FACTS

 

            Respondent Advantek Inc., a manufacturer of packing products for electronic parts, employed relator Abdi Jama as a machine operator and material handler from April 13, 1999, to May 1, 2001.  During the course of his employment, Jama received many warnings regarding his failure to follow Advantek’s procedures for handling and inspecting products.  Most of these warnings regarded Jama’s failure to inspect products after his machine detected a defect in the product.  His machine would stop and a red light would appear indicating that a product was defective.  Jama, however, would not inspect the product but would instead restart the machine, thereby producing defective products.  On May 1, Advantek terminated Jama, stating in its termination notice that Jama was well trained and capable of doing the job but that he wasted material and time by not following proper procedures. 

When Jama applied for unemployment benefits, the Department of Economic Security determined that he was disqualified because Advantek discharged him for misconduct.  On appeal to the unemployment law judge, this determination was reversed; the judge found that Jama was a recent immigrant with clear cultural and language differences.  The judge also found that, while Jama had made mistakes throughout his employment, these mistakes were the result of inability or incapacity.  Advantek appealed, and the commissioner’s representative reversed, finding that Advantek discharged Jama for employment misconduct, and thus he was disqualified from receiving benefits.  This petition for a writ of certiorari followed.

D E C I S I O N

 

            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., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).  Whether an employee committed particular acts is a question of fact, and whether those acts constitute misconduct is a question of law.  Scheunemann v. Radisson S. Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997).  An appellate court reviews “the findings of the commissioner or the commissioner’s representative, not those of the referee, even though those findings might involve witness credibility.”  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995) (citing Semanko v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 309 Minn. 425, 428, 244 N.W.2d 663, 665 (1976)).  This court views the commissioner’s representative’s findings “in the light most favorable to the decision” and will not disturb those findings if there “is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them.”  White v. Metro. Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).

            An employee who is discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000).  Employment misconduct is any intentional conduct in violation of the standards of behavior that the employer has a right to expect or negligent or indifferent conduct that shows a substantial lack of concern for the employment.  Id., subd. 6(a)(1), (2) (2000).  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).  But 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).  Generally, for a violation to constitute misconduct, the rules must be reasonable and not impose an unreasonable burden on an employee.  Sandstrom v. Douglas Mach. Corp., 372 N.W.2d 89, 91 (Minn. App. 1985). 

            Jama seeks reversal of the commissioner’s determination that he was discharged for misconduct.  The commissioner’s representative found that (1) Jama was repeatedly warned to follow proper procedures, (2) after these warnings he was able to perform his duties, and (3) he would continuously revert back to not following procedures.  Furthermore, the representative found that Jama’s practice of restarting the machines without inspecting the products was not due to inability, but was either intentional conduct in violation of Advantek’s standards or negligent or indifferent conduct that demonstrated a lack of concern for his employment.   

Our review of the record convinces us that the commissioner correctly concluded that Jama was able to perform his job, yet continuously violated Advantek’s policies by failing to inspect products properly and by producing defective products.  Testimony from both Jama and Advantek employees confirmed that Jama was competent to perform the duties of his job, but that he would override the computer instead of inspecting products.  That conduct is either intentional in violation of employer standards or, at a minimum, negligent.  See Gilkeson v. Indus. Parts & Serv., Inc., 383 N.W.2d 448, 452 (Minn. App. 1986) (upholding disqualification from benefits where employee “demonstrated a substantial disregard of his employer’s interests by his pattern of failing to follow policies and procedures and ignoring directions and requests”); see also Daniels v. Gnan Trucking, 352 N.W.2d 815, 816 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that even one instance of refusing to perform a task known to be part of the job “was a deliberate act of insubordination” and constituted misconduct).  Furthermore, we conclude that Advantek’s inspection and handling policies were reasonable because they ensured the manufacturing of quality products and did not impose an unreasonable burden on Jama. 

Finally, Jama claims that he did not receive training and that he only received a few warnings for mistakes.  There is no merit to either of these claims.  The record shows that Jama received numerous written warnings, which he signed acknowledging his violations, and that he received training to correct these problems.  Despite Advantek’s efforts and Jama’s knowledge of the job, he chose to violate procedures and produce defective products.  There is sufficient evidence to sustain the commissioner’s representative’s determination of misconduct.

            Affirmed.

 



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