This opinion will be unpublished and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
Jeremy J. Monson,
B P Acquisition Company LLC,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed March 11, 2003
Department of Economic Security
File No. 1087 02
Jeremy J. Monson, 3185 Karth Road, #107, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (relator pro se)
Andy L. Bond, Suite 500, 5775 Wayzata Boulevard, St. Louis Park, MN 55416-1231 (for respondent B P Acquisition Company)
Linda Holmes, Department of Economic Security, 390 N. Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Respondent B P Acquisition Company LLC employed pro se relator Jeremy J. Monson as a truck driver. Relator challenges a decision by a representative of the respondent Commissioner of Economic Security disqualifying him from receiving unemployment benefits. Because the evidence is undisputed that relator was discharged after receiving repeated warnings about his careless driving and after his third work-related accident within a 14-month period, we affirm the decision of the commissioner’s representative that relator was discharged for employment misconduct.
When an employee is discharged for employment misconduct, he or she is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000). Employment misconduct is defined as “intentional conduct” by an employee that “disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect * * * or disregards the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a)(1) (2000).
The supreme court recently interpreted this statutory definition to require record evidence that
the employee not only engaged in intentional conduct, but also intended to, or engaged in conduct that evinced an intent to ignore or pay no attention to his or her duties and obligations or the standards of behavior the employer has a right to expect.
Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp., 645 N.W.2d 144, 150 (Minn. 2002). The supreme court concluded that this interpretation is “consistent with the remedial nature of unemployment compensation and the declared public policy that unemployment benefits are for those who are ‘unemployed through no fault of their own.’” Id. (quoting Minn. Stat. § 268.03, subd. 1(2000)).
The issue of whether a “particular act constitutes disqualifying misconduct is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.” Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002) (citation omitted). “As a general rule, refusing to abide by an employer’s reasonable policies and requests amounts to disqualifying misconduct.” Id. (citation omitted). “Because the nature of an employer’s interest will vary depending upon the job, what constitutes disregard of that interest, and therefore misconduct, will also vary.” Id. at 806 (quotation omitted).
Relator argues that he did not commit misconduct because his three accidents were isolated and there was no evidence that his conduct was intentional or deliberate. As support for his position, he cites Swanson v. Columbia Transit Corp., 311 Minn. 538, 248 N.W.2d 732 (1976). In that case, the supreme court reversed the denial of unemployment benefits, holding that the evidence failed to establish that a school bus driver’s involvement in three accidents during a 47-day period constituted misconduct. Id. at 539, 248 N.W.2d at 733. The court in Swanson explained that “[t]aken separately, [the employee’s three] accidents only represent incidents of inadvertence or negligence” and that “[w]hile we do not rule out the possibility of a series of negligent or inadvertent acts amounting to misconduct, the evidence does not support such a conclusion in this case.” Id. (footnote omitted).
Here, relator was discharged after he rear-ended another vehicle that was waiting at a red light. He admitted that the accident occurred because he was attempting to read a map and inadvertently took his foot off the brake, causing the truck to move forward and hit the vehicle in front of it. Relator further acknowledged that in the 14-month period prior to this final incident, he was involved in two other accidents: the first occurred when he hit another vehicle while he was backing up, and the second occurred when he rear-ended another vehicle. After each of these first two accidents, relator was warned that he needed to exercise greater caution while driving; after the second accident, he was warned that another accident could result in his discharge. Nevertheless, only three weeks later, he was involved in the third and final accident when he rear-ended a stopped vehicle.
Based on this evidence, the commissioner’s representative determined that relator had received repeated warnings regarding the importance of driving safely, was specifically warned about being more attentive and more careful in his driving, but that shortly after his last warning, he rear-ended another vehicle because he was reading a map instead of properly controlling his vehicle. His employer, a wholesale produce and food service company that distributes produce to restaurants, had a clear and substantial interest in employing safe, attentive drivers. By engaging in this series of negligent acts, relator demonstrated a “substantial lack of concern for [his] employment.” See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a)(2) (definition of employment misconduct includes “negligent or indifferent conduct, on or off the job, that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment”).
Relator also argues that his employer discharged him to protect its insurance status. When asked why relator was discharged, however, his supervisor testified that it was “[b]ecause he had his second accident within a month.” Even if we accept relator’s assertion that his employer’s possible loss of insurance was the true reason for his discharge, relator’s involvement in accidents in which he either backed into or rear-ended other vehicles, despite repeated warnings from the employer, evinced a substantial disregard for his employer’s interest. Cf. Eddins v. Chippewa Springs Corp., 388 N.W.2d 434, 435-36 (Minn. App. 1986) (employee’s receipt of six traffic tickets and adverse effect on employer’s insurance status not sufficient basis to support finding of disqualifying misconduct, where driving incidents occurred on employee’s own time and employee’s performance not otherwise deficient).
Our review of an unemployment case is limited to determining whether the record reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner or his representative. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). Because the record here reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner’s representative and because we are convinced that relator is not unemployed through no fault of his own, we affirm.