This opinion will be unpublished and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
Bill K. Schwartz,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed August 6, 2002
Department of Economic Security
File No. 793801
Bill K. Schwartz, 6345 James Avenue South, Richfield, MN 55423 (pro se relator)
Philip B. Byrne, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Pro se relator challenges the decision of the commissioner’s representative regarding the effective date of his unemployment benefits account, contending that he would have filed earlier but for his reliance on representations by representatives of the Department of Economic Security that he was ineligible. Because the evidence supports the decision, we affirm.
On March 16, 2001, relator Bill K. Schwartz was laid off from his job at Food Engineering Corp. (FEC). Schwartz then began working full-time for AMF Bowling Centers (AMF), at a job involving work different from the work he did at FEC.
In early April 2001, dissatisfied with his job at AMF, Schwartz called the Department of Economic Security at its Brooklyn Park workforce center to ask if he would be eligible for unemployment benefits if he quit AMF. He claims that he was told “that they go by your last place of employment” and that a person who voluntarily quits his job is not entitled to unemployment benefits. Schwartz does not claim that he attempted to apply for benefits or that he asked for or received any information regarding how to apply for benefits. Although he believed that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits, Schwartz quit AMF.
In May 2001, Schwartz again called the workforce center, and he alleges he was told that “any time one quits a job, they would be disqualified from benefits unless they had just cause.” Again, nothing in the record shows that Schwartz either attempted to apply for benefits or to ask about the application procedure. Both conversations with the workforce center related to the question of whether Schwartz would be eligible for benefits if he quit his job at AMF, and Schwartz does not claim that he told workforce-center personnel that he had been at the job less than 30 calendar days.
In June 2001, at the urging of a former coworker at FEC, Schwartz submitted an application for unemployment benefits, and the department determined that he was eligible for benefits because he quit AMF within 30 calendar days after starting. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(3) (2000 & Supp. 2001) (providing that applicant is not disqualified from unemployment benefits when he quits job that is unsuitable for him within 30 calendar days after starting). His account was given an effective date of June 17, 2001, but Schwartz requested that his account be made effective as of the date that he first discussed his eligibility with personnel at the workforce center on the ground that he was prevented from applying for benefits by the department’s representations.
In September 2001, an unemployment law judge modified the effective date to June 10, 2001, concluding that Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 3b (2000 & Supp. 2001), allows backdating of an account’s effective date by one week upon specific request if the applicant was unemployed during that period. But the judge denied Schwartz’s request for an even earlier effective date, concluding that the department did not prevent Schwartz from attempting to file an application. See Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 3b (providing that if applicant is prevented from filing by department “benefit account shall be effective the Sunday of the calendar week the individual first attempted to file an application”).
Schwartz appealed, and the commissioner’s representative affirmed the unemployment law judge’s decision. This appeal follows.
When reviewing the decision of a commissioner’s representative, this court must determine if there is “reasonable support in the evidence to sustain the decision.” Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995) (quotation omitted). 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). But this court exercises independent judgment with respect to questions of law. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp. Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
Schwartz asserts that he is entitled to an effective date in April 2001 for his account because the department “must take their responsibility and give proper information and direction.” Schwartz contends that if the department had told him that he was eligible, he would have applied for benefits “without hesitation.” But the commissioner’s representative found that Schwartz was “not told that he could not file an application” and concluded that there was no basis for giving Schwartz’s account an effective date earlier than June 10, 2001.
Schwartz admits that both of his telephone calls to the department were simply inquiries regarding what would happen if he quit his employment with AMF. Additionally, to the extent it is Schwartz’s unarticulated argument that the department should be estopped from denying his account an earlier effective date, the argument fails because Schwartz has not shown any wrongful conduct by department representatives. See Brown v. Minn. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 368 N.W.2d 906, 910 (Minn. 1985) (stating that the doctrine of estoppel is not freely applied against a government agency and that wrongful conduct is element of estoppel against government); see also Mesaba Aviation Div. v. County of Itasca, 258 N.W.2d 877, 880 (Minn. 1977) (concluding that written representation by government that property would not be subject to taxation did not estop government from collecting tax on property).
Because Schwartz has failed to show that he was prevented from applying for benefits, and because he has not established that the department is estopped from denying his account an earlier effective date, we conclude that the evidence reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner’s representative.
Schwartz also argues that the commissioner’s representative erred by finding that that the department’s workforce-center personnel accurately described the law, arguing that the personnel did not tell him about a possible exception to the rule that a person does not qualify for unemployment benefits if he voluntarily quits his full-time employment. But in a July 20, 2001, letter to the department, Schwartz admitted that the workforce-center personnel told him that people who quit their jobs are “disqualified from benefits unless they had just cause.” (Emphasis added.) There is evidence, therefore, to support the finding of the commissioner’s representative.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.