This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Kathleen M. Pribble,
Edina Care Center,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed March 11, 2003
Department of Economic Security
File No. 10841 01
Kathleen M. Pribble, 9290 Boiling Springs Lane East, Shakopee, Minnesota 55379-8041 (pro se relator)
Edina Care Center, 6200 Xerxes Avenue South, Edina, Minnesota 55423 (respondent)
Nicholas J. O’Connell, Certified Student Attorney, Keith Goodwin, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
This court applies a narrow scope of review to economic security appeals. We review the factual findings of a commissioner’s determination in a light most favorable to the findings, and we leave that determination undisturbed so long as the record reasonably supports the factual findings. Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002). But the commissioner’s representative’s legal conclusions do not bind this court. Central Specialties, Inc. v. Comm’r of Econ. Sec., 622 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. May 15, 2001).
Unemployment “benefits extend only to persons unemployed through no fault of their own.” Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). An employee discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4 (2002). Whether an employee committed misconduct that disqualifies eligibility for unemployment benefits is a mixed question of law and fact. Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984). Whether an employee committed a specific act is a question of fact. Scheunemann v. Radisson S. Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997). But whether a specific act constitutes misconduct is a question of law reviewed de novo. Schmidgall, 644 N.W.2d at 804.
Disqualifying “misconduct” is defined by statute 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 * * * .
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a) (2002). Misconduct must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence. Minn. Stat § 268.03, subd. 2 (2002). An employee may commit misconduct by refusing to comply with an employer’s reasonable requests and/or policies. See McGowan v. Executive Express Transp. Enters., Inc., 420 N.W.2d 592, 596 (Minn. 1988). A single deliberate act adverse to the employer may constitute misconduct. Ress, 448 N.W.2d at 524. Specifically, a violation of patient records confidentiality constitutes misconduct. Group Health Plan, Inc. v. Lopez, 341 N.W.2d 294, 297 (Minn. App. 1983).
Confidentiality of patient records is a very important matter in a hospital or medical situation. Records privacy is a patient's right. A violation of confidentiality could subject the health care institution to a malpractice claim. A hospital has the right to expect its employees to keep patient records confidential.
Id. (citations omitted).
Pribble challenges the sufficiency of evidence that she committed employment misconduct. The commissioner's representative's findings, when viewed as a whole, tend to support the overall conclusion of misconduct. The findings do reflect minor discrepancies with the record, specifically in the number of times Pribble was warned about her employment misconduct and the exact date of these warnings. But the representative's ultimate conclusion that Pribble committed misconduct is amply supported in the record.
Pribble denies faxing confidential patient information, but the record shows otherwise. Pribble testified, "I'm not denying I faxed confidential information to my attorney but it was not out of a chart, it was concerning * * * " but, at that point, the unemployment law judge interrupted Pribble and did not allow her to finish. Later, after testifying that she did not fax any information from resident charts or files, Pribble admitted that she did fax a referral form to her attorney on the day in question
[F]or my attorney’s purpose to see what they were referring to as far as what I was doing wrong, but it was not anybody in particulars (sic) notes. * * * It was an incident in a referral report but it wasn’t with any bodies [sic] specific name on it.
Pribble did not produce the fax she sent to her attorney or the confirmation slip to prove these assertions. Moreover, Pribble’s testimony was directly contradicted by two other nurses who personally witnesses Pribble faxing patient records. Therefore, the record supports the commissioner’s representative’s conclusion that Pribble committed employment misconduct.
Additionally, Pribble’s claim that the counseling sessions and ultimate termination were in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaints is unsupported by the record. Employer took her complaint seriously, as evidenced by the fact that the complaint was investigated and employer spoke with the coworker in question. What the record does support is that Pribble committed employment misconduct when she faxed confidential patient information to her attorney. See id. (finding violation of patient confidentiality in medical records employment misconduct). "[I]f there is one unique area of employment law where strict compliance with protocol and militarylike discipline is required, it is in the medical field." Ress, 448 N.W.2d at 525. Despite the minor factual discrepancies, the commissioner’s representative’s decision is amply supported by the record.