may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
New Challenges, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Minnesota Department of Economic Security
File No. 710402
Patrick R. Raleigh, PO Box 896, Stillwater, MN 55082-0896 (pro se relator)
New Challenges, Inc., 3513 Widgeon Way, Eagan, MN 55123-1004 (pro se respondent employer)
Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal is from a decision that relator Patrick R. Raleigh is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because he quit his employment with respondent New Challenges, Inc., Raleigh argues that he was discharged. We affirm.
Raleigh was employed by New Challenges, Inc. as a live-in caretaker providing 24-hour care to a client with a developmental disability. Raleigh lived with the client in an apartment provided by New Challenges. On January 1, 2002, the client somehow obtained a BB-gun when Raleigh allowed the client to go alone to the apartment garage to smoke a cigarette.
The next day, the client’s mother called New Challenges and complained to Leeann Metzmaker, an administrator for New Challenges, that Raleigh mistreated her son and left him unsupervised. Metzmaker called Raleigh’s direct supervisor, Stacy Murphy, and asked Murphy to meet with Metzmaker and the client’s mother at the client’s apartment. At the apartment, the client’s mother said that she felt that her son was not safe with Raleigh. She removed her son from the apartment and took him to her home.
After the client and his mother left the apartment, Metzmaker and Murphy met with Raleigh. Raleigh’s account of this meeting differs from Metzmaker’s account. Raleigh testified that Metzmaker told him that the client’s mother did not believe her son was safe with him and that when he asked where he stood, Metzmaker handed him a blank piece of paper and a pen and asked him what he wanted to do. Raleigh asked Metzmaker what she wanted him to do, and Metzmaker said that he was no longer in care of the client. Raleigh said that he assumed that meant that he would have to move, and Metzmaker said yes. Metzmaker and Murphy then lectured Raleigh for about a half hour, and about five or ten minutes into the lecture, it dawned on Raleigh that when Metzmaker handed him the paper and pen, she was looking for him to give his resignation. Raleigh said that he was confused and he could not make a decision right away. He asked Metzmaker what other opportunities were available in the company, and she said that there were no current opportunities. Before Metzmaker left the apartment, she again asked Raleigh what he wanted to do, and he said that he could not make a decision that night.
Metzmaker testified that during the meeting with Raleigh, she told him that the client was not supposed to be left alone, and Raleigh said maybe he should not be working there because he could not work with someone who is a liar, a thief, and someone who steals. Metzmaker told Raleigh that if he was not interested in working with the client, he should let her know. At that point, Metzmaker testified, Raleigh said that maybe he should just be done there, and she asked him if he was resigning his position. His first comment back to her was yes, and then, a couple of minutes later when she handed him a pencil and a piece of paper and asked him to put it in writing, he said he needed to think about it a little. Metzmaker told Raleigh that if he could not work with the client, he had to move out of the apartment, and Raleigh said that he could move out by the weekend. Before leaving the apartment, Metzmaker and Raleigh talked about the possibility of working at other homes with other clients.
Murphy testified that she attempted to call Raleigh several times before January 4 to discuss his availability for other work, but Raleigh did not return her calls. Raleigh testified that he never received any calls and that his cell-phone records would prove that he was never called, but he did not produce the records.
Murphy also testified that when Raleigh came to the New Challenges office to drop off keys on January 4, he told her that he was resigning his position because it was in the best interest of the client and the company. Murphy wrote a note about the conversation, dated January 4, 2002, which said:
Pat Raleigh told me that he was willing to resign his position with New Challenges in the interest of the program.
He also told me that he has another job in Wisconsin that he’d be starting right away—so he’d be fine.
Raleigh testified that he returned a bankbook at the New Challenges office on January 4 and that he returned keys on January 7. With respect to January 7, he testified:
[I]t is true that on January, Monday, January 7th I may have the date, does that sound right, I stopped in the office to bring the keys back upon – and I, [Murphy] was in the office I asked if I could see her for a minute, she asked me what I was going to do. I said well I got a call back from somebody who I applied at the same time that I applied for your company back in September. They called me and I said I think I have a job there, as it turned out I didn’t get the job. But that day I thought, I was confident that I did and I may have made that statement there that I was sure.
In February 2002, Raleigh applied for unemployment benefits and the department of economic security made an initial determination of non-disqualification. New Challenges appealed, and the unemployment law judge reversed, finding that Raleigh quit his employment without good cause attributable to his employer. On appeal, the commissioner’s representative affirmed.
Decisions of the commissioner’s representative are accorded particular deference. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). Whether an employee voluntarily quits or was discharged is a question of fact. Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985).
All issues of fact under the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program Law shall be determined by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means evidence in substantiation of a fact that, when weighed against the evidence opposing the fact, is more convincing and has a greater probability of truth.
Minn. Stat. § 268.03, subd. 2 (2002). The commissioner’s representative’s factual findings are viewed in the light most favorable to the decision and will not be disturbed if evidence in the record reasonably tends to sustain them. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996).
An employee who quit employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless the employee quit for a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). “A quit from employment occurs when the decision to end the employment was * * * the employee’s.” Id., subd. 2(a) (2002). An employee quits when he “directly or indirectly exercises a free-will choice to leave the employment.” Shanahan v. Dist. Mem’l Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 896 (Minn. App. 1993). A discharge occurs “when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer will no longer allow the employee to work * * * in any capacity.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5(a) (2002).
Raleigh argues that New Challenges misrepresented the facts during trial. He contends that there was conflicting testimony about what happened, and the commissioner’s representative erred in determining that he quit his job. Raleigh does not claim that he quit for a good reason caused by New Challenges.
When the parties have presented conflicting evidence on the record, this court must defer to the Commissioner’s ability to weigh the evidence; we may not weigh that evidence on review.
Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995). When conflicting testimony requires a credibility determination, we defer to the commissioner’s representative’s credibility determination. Jenson v. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 617 N.W.2d 627, 631 (Minn. App. 2000). This court defers to the commissioner’s representative even where the commissioner’s representative is reviewing decisions of unemployment law judges, whose findings may involve witness credibility. Lolling, 545 N.W.2d at 377.
Although there was conflicting testimony as to what was said and done surrounding the events that lead to Raleigh’s separation from his employment, the evidence reasonably sustains the commissioner’s representative’s finding that Raleigh quit his employment. Raleigh testified that he returned a bankbook to New Challenges on January 4 and that when he returned keys to New Challenges on January 7, he told Murphy that he thought he had a job in Wisconsin. Murphy testified that when Raleigh returned keys on January 4, he told her that he had a job in Wisconsin, and New Challenges introduced a January 4, 2002, note that Murphy wrote about Raleigh’s statement. Although there are inconsistencies in this evidence about whether Raleigh made this statement on January 4 or January 7 and whether he made the statement when he returned the bankbook or the keys, Murphy and Raleigh both testified that he made the statement. This evidence reasonably tends to sustain the commissioner’s representative’s factual determination that Raleigh informed New Challenges on January 4 that he was quitting and had another job in Wisconsin.
There is also evidence that between January 2 and January 4, New Challenges attempted to contact Raleigh about other available work. Murphy testified that there was work available to Raleigh after January 2 and that she
called him at least twice if not more trying to get a hold of him to try to figure out something schedule-wise or to get him some hours.
This evidence supports the commissioner’s representative’s determination that Raleigh made the decision to end the employment at the time the employment ended.
Because the evidence reasonably sustains the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings, the commissioner’s representative did not err in determining that Raleigh quit his employment without a good reason caused by New Challenges.
Metzmaker explained that the client has a history of stealing.