This opinion will be unpublished and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
Lenard E. Payne,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed September 24, 2002
Department of Economic Security
File No. 720501
Lenard E. Payne, P.O. Box 80350, Minneapolis, MN 55408-8350 (pro se relator)
Philip B. Byrne, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The Commissioner of Economic Security determined that Lenard Payne had insufficient wages to establish a second benefit account following the expiration of Payne’s initial benefit year. Payne contends that the commissioner erred in failing to include in the wage calculation a 401(k) distribution that Payne received after he established his first benefit account. Because the distribution consisted of deferred wages earned before Payne established the first account and because Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 3 (2000), limits the wage credit to services performed after the effective date of the first benefit account, we affirm.
F A C T S
Lenard Payne established a benefit account with the Minnesota Department of Employment Security effective May 28, 2000, based on a period of employment with Radio Shack. Payne received maximum benefits during the benefit year, which extended from May 28, 2000, through May 26, 2001.
When his benefits expired, Payne attempted to establish a second benefit account to begin on May 27, 2001. For purposes of satisfying the threshold wage credits necessary to establish a second account, Payne relied on $1,421.70 in wages earned through employment at Harvest Charter School from mid-October 2000 through mid-November 2000 and $724 in wages earned during one week’s employment at Dacon Engineering & Services. Payne also sought to include a distribution of $2,756.91 from a 401(k) plan established during his employment at Radio Shack.
The department determined that Payne had insufficient wages to meet the statutory requirements for establishing a second account. Payne appealed, and an unemployment law judge affirmed the denial. On Payne’s further appeal, the commissioner’s representative sustained the denial, concluding that Payne had not met the wages-earned benefit requirement because the funds from the 401(k) distribution were not of wages paid for services performed after Payne established his first account. On writ of certiorari to this court, Payne contends that the commissioner misapplied the statutes governing the establishment of a second account.
D E C I S I O N
In unemployment-compensation proceedings, we review the commissioner’s factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision to determine whether the evidence in the record reasonably tends to sustain those findings. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996). On questions of law, however, we exercise independent judgment. McGowan v. Executive Express Transp. Enters., Inc., 420 N.W.2d 592, 594 (Minn. 1988). The construction of a statute is a question of law, which is subject to independent review. Lolling, 545 N.W.2d at 375.
The facts on appeal are essentially undisputed. The question presented for decision is whether Payne established a second benefits account within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 3. To establish a second benefit account under subdivision 3, an applicant must satisfy certain statutory conditions, including “hav[ing] performed services in covered employment after the effective date of the prior benefit account.” Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 3. Also, “[t]he wages paid for that employment must equal not less than eight times the weekly unemployment benefit amount of the prior benefit account.” Id. The purpose of this section is to prevent applicants from “establishing more than one benefit account as a result of one loss of employment.” Id.
Payne acknowledges that to meet the requirement of subdivision 3 he must have received, after May 28, 2000, wages equal to or in excess of eight times his prior weekly unemployment benefit amount of $329, or a total of $2,632. He argues, however, that the commissioner erred in counting towards the minimum wage credits only those wages received for services performed during the benefit year. In his view, an applicant qualifies for a second benefit account so long as at least a portion of the applicant’s required wage credits were received for services performed after the effective date of the first benefit year.
Payne’s argument overlooks the plain language of the statute. Subdivision 3 provides that “an applicant must have sufficient wage credits to establish a benefit account under subdivision 2 and must have performed services in covered employment after the effective date of the prior benefit account.” Payne does not dispute that the effective date of the prior benefit account is May 28, 2000. The next sentence in subdivision 3 states that “[t]he wages paid for that employment must equal not less than eight times the weekly unemployment benefit amount of the prior benefit account.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, Payne’s minimum amount of $2,632 must be from services performed after he began receiving benefits from his first benefit account, that is, after May 28, 2000. The distribution of the deferred wages from the 401(k) account occurred after May 28, 2000, but the services for which Payne earned those wages were performed before May 28, 2000, during his employment at Radio Shack. Thus, the distribution was not for services performed after the effective date of Payne’s prior benefit account.
This plain reading is consistent with the purpose of the statute. To allow the distribution to be counted as a wage credit would thwart the statute’s express purpose of preventing more than one benefit account for one loss of employment.