This opinion will be unpublished and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
Cynthia A. Sobczak,
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed May 27, 2003
Department of Economic Security
File No. 1396101
Dennis Paul Pelowski, Law Office of Dennis Paul Pelowski, 300 Lumber Exchange Building, 10 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for relator)
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., 2750 Eagandale Boulevard, Eagan, MN 55121 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Cynthia Sobczak, by writ of certiorari, appeals an order of the Commissioner of Economic Security disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits. The evidence reasonably tends to support the decision of the commissioner’s representative that Sobczak voluntarily quit her job without a good reason attributable to her employer, and we affirm.
F A C T S
Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) employed Cynthia Sobczak from March 1981 to September 2001. During that time period, Sobczak was promoted several times and attained the position of accounting manager. On September 28, 2001, Sobczak received her annual performance review. In the course of the review, her supervisor told her that she was being moved to a newly created position within the company because she was not meeting CCE’s standards for training employees or maintaining financial statements. The new position, entitled “senior financial analyst,” provided Sobczak the same pay and benefits as her accounting manager position, but Sobczak would have no supervisory duties and no direct responsibility for financial statements.
Sobczak was upset by the decision and, within two hours of the meeting, submitted her resignation. Sobczak’s supervisor and a human resources manager talked to Sobczak at length, urging her to hold off resigning until she had considered it over the weekend. Sobczak was unwilling to reconsider.
Sobczak applied for unemployment benefits, but her claim was denied and her appeals to an unemployment law judge and the commissioner’s representative were unsuccessful. Sobczak filed a timely petition for certiorari review of the representative’s determination that she voluntarily resigned without a good reason attributable to CCE.
An employee who voluntarily resigns from employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless the employee resigns because of “a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). Whether an employee has a good reason to resign is a question of law subject to de novo review. Kehoe v. Minn. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 890 (Minn. App. 1997). But a reviewing court must defer to the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings when there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them. White v. Metro. Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).
A good reason caused by the employer is a reason “(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible[,] and (2) that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remain in the employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. (3)(1), (2) (2002).
It is undisputed that Sobczak resigned from her employment at CCE. Sobczak contends, however, that she had good reason to quit because the reassignment was a demotion, the new position offered no career advancement possibilities, the travel could be excessive, and she was concerned that the job would be eliminated at the end of the year when the major components of the job were completed.
The commissioner’s representative found that these concerns were speculative and that CCE had demonstrated that they were unfounded and therefore did not constitute a valid reason to resign. Testimony in the record from Sobczak’s supervisor and a human resources representative, as well as a letter submitted into evidence from CCE’s human resources department, shows that CCE considered the analyst position a lateral transfer rather than a demotion. Both positions had the same job grade, fifteen, and both jobs had the same educational and experience requirements. The wages, benefits, work schedule, and work location were to remain the same in Sobczak’s new position as they had been in her accounting manager position. No evidence in the record supports Sobczak’s assertion that the analyst position would present no career advancement opportunities. A CCE human resources manager testified that every employee at CCE has the opportunity to pursue employment opportunities within the company.
The record also contains evidence that the amount of travel required in both positions was roughly equal. Sobczak testified that “[t]he travel would have been at least one or two weeks a month, and the reason I say that is because a subordinate of mine had performed those duties and that was the length of time that he was out of the office.” But the analyst position was a new position and there is no evidence that CCE ever told Sobczak that the analyst position would have the same travel requirements as those required in the subordinate’s position. Sobczak also acknowledged that at the time she tendered her resignation her supervisor “offered to remove [travel] duty from the [analyst] job description.”
Finally, the record shows that CCE considered the job of senior financial analyst a permanent position within the company. Sobczak’s supervisor testified that he advised Sobczak that the analyst position was a permanent position when she expressed concerns that the position would be temporary. No evidence supports Sobczak’s belief that the duties in the analyst position would in fact be completed by the end of the year or that, once they were completed, the analyst position would be eliminated.
Sobczak raises compelling arguments that the transfer to the new position was a set up to cause her to fail and justify her termination. For that argument to prevail, however, we would have to reject all of the commissioner’s representative’s findings. When witness credibility and conflicting evidence are at issue, we are required to defer to the commissioner’s representative’s ability to weigh evidence and make those determinations; we may not weigh evidence on review. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). We are required to review the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative in the light most favorable to the decision and determine whether there is evidence in the record that reasonably tends to support the findings. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996).
The record supports the commissioner’s representative’s finding that CCE refuted the validity of Sobczak’s concerns with the analyst position. On these facts, the representative determined that Sobczak did not have a good reason to quit her employment attributable to CCE. See Cook v. Playworks, 541 N.W.2d 366, 368 (Minn. App. 1996) (stating that a good reason to quit has been defined as one that is real and not imaginary). Accepting these facts, as we must, we conclude that the average, reasonable worker would not quit because of speculative or suppositional problems with the newly created position.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.