This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







Steven C. Watts,





Wildfire Sprinkler, Inc.,



Commissioner of Economic Security,



Filed September 10, 2002


Willis, Judge


Department of Economic Security

Agency File No. 866801


Steven C. Watts, 3828 Diamond Loch East, North Richland Hills, TX  76180 (pro se relator)


Wildfire Sprinkler, Inc., 59 Voyageurs Point, Grand Marais, MN  55604 (respondent)


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


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Pro se relator seeks review by writ of certiorari of a decision by a representative of the commissioner of the Department of Economic Security affirming relator’s disqualification from receiving unemployment benefits on the ground that he failed without good cause to accept an offer of suitable employment.  We affirm.    


            Respondent Wildfire Sprinkler, Inc. (Wildfire), employed relator Steven C. Watts from June 2000 until October 2000 and again from mid-May 2001 until the end of June 2001.  In June 2001, George Carlson, Wildfire’s president, allegedly informed Watts that Wildfire had no more work for him.  Watts filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Department of Economic Security (DES).  In July 2001, DES issued an initial determination of unemployment benefits payable to Watts and chargeable to Wildfire.  A few days later, Carlson offered Watts “3 retrofit jobs that he estimated to be 2 hrs. each for a total of 6 hrs.”  Watts refused that offer. 

On behalf of Wildfire, Carlson protested Watts’s claim for unemployment benefits.  DES affirmed its initial determination, and Wildfire appealed.  In September 2001, an unemployment-law judge held an evidentiary hearing by telephone on Wildfire’s appeal; Watts did not participate.  After that hearing, the unemployment-law judge disqualified Watts from unemployment benefits on the ground that he failed without good cause to accept Carlson’s offer of suitable employment.  Watts appealed, and the commissioner’s representative affirmed.  This appeal by writ of certiorari follows.   


When reviewing a decision of the commissioner’s representative, the role of an appellate court is extremely limited.  Hendrickson v. Northfield Cleaners, 295 N.W.2d 384, 385 (Minn. 1980) (citation omitted).

[This court] review[s] the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative in the light most favorable to the decision and determine[s] whether there is evidence in the record that reasonably tends to sustain those findings.   


Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996) (citation omitted).  But this court exercises independent judgment with respect to questions of law.  See Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp. Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted).  “The issue of whether a claimant is properly disqualified from the receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law.”  Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 384 (Minn. 1992) (citation omitted).

Minnesota’s unemployment-insurance program exists to provide “temporary partial wage replacement to assist the unemployed worker to become reemployed.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.03, subd. 1 (2000). 

[B]ecause the unemployment compensation statute is remedial in nature, it must be liberally construed to effectuate the public policy of Minn. Stat. § 268.03 * * * that unemployment reserves be used for the benefit of persons unemployed through no fault of their own.  For this reason its disqualification provisions are to be narrowly construed.


Hendrickson, 295 N.W.2d at 385-86 (Minn. 1980) (quotation and citations omitted).  

Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 8(a)(2) (2000), provides:

An applicant shall be disqualified from all unemployment benefits if the applicant, without good cause * * * failed to accept suitable employment when offered * * * .


Suitable employment means employment in the applicant’s labor market area that is reasonably related to the applicant’s qualifications. 


Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 23a(a) (2000).  Whether an employer has offered suitable employment is a question of fact, involving a determination of credibility by the commissioner’s representative.  Willrich v. Top Temp., Inc., 379 N.W.2d 731, 732 (Minn. App. 1986) (citation omitted).  When credibility is at issue, this court defers to the ability of the commissioner’s representative to weigh the evidence.  See Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995) (citation omitted). 

Watts contends that Carlson offered him employment with Wildfire that was unsuitable and that he turned that offer down for good cause.  He argues that Carlson’s offer was not suitable because it was a

small job involving about 3 hours work and considerable driving time for which [Wildfire] was only willing to pay 1/2 rate for driving time.  I also knew that [Wildfire] did not have the parts to do [the work].


Watts claims that he had worked full-time for Wildfire, weather permitting.       

Watts did not participate in the telephone hearing before the unemployment-law judge.  He claims that he did not find out about that hearing until after the hearing had been conducted.  But in his decision, the unemployment-law judge noted that Watts could not be reached at the telephone number listed for him and that he did not provide another telephone number where he could be reached; Watts does not contend otherwise. 

At the telephone hearing, Carlson testified that he could have kept Watts “busy” working and that Watts refused the work that he offered despite the fact that Watts had previously done the same type of work, that he had traveled to work sites, and that he had previously accepted half his usual wage rate for driving time.  Watts claims on appeal that Carlson lied at the hearing about offering him other work at Wildfire and about having a backlog of work.  But the commissioner’s representative found Carlson’s testimony credible, and we defer to his findings.  See Whitehead, 529 N.W.2d at 352. 

Although Watts contends that he worked full-time, weather permitting, he admits on appeal that there were times that he did not work and claims that the gaps in his employment were caused by Carlson’s disorganization.  Watts argues that he was not able to work at times because either Carlson did not obtain the insurance necessary to start a job or Wildfire did not have the parts on hand to do the work.  But Watts cites no legal authority for the proposition that suitable employment for him means full-time work because his employment would have been full-time but for the fact that his employer was “disorganized.”  We decline to address this claim.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 1(d) (providing that briefs must include citations to legal authorities); Stephens v. Bd. of Regents, 614 N.W.2d 764, 770 n.4 (Minn. App. 2000) (declining to address claims not supported by citation to relevant legal authority or by legal analysis), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 2000).  Evidence supports the finding of the commissioner’s representative that Carlson offered Watts suitable employment.

Once an employer has established that it offered suitable employment to a claimant, the burden shifts to the claimant to show good cause for failing to accept that offer.  See McDonnell v. Anytime Temps., 349 N.W.2d 339, 341 (Minn. App. 1984).  Watts claims that DES advised him that because he had worked full-time for Wildfire, he did not have to accept Carlson’s employment offer because the offer was for “less than 2 weeks work at at least 32 hrs. per week.”  Watts evidently means to argue that he therefore had good cause not to accept that offer.  But DES’s advice, if given, was based on Watts’s representation to DES that he had worked full-time for Wildfire; the record shows that he did not.