This opinion will be unpublished and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
Christy L. Herreid,
Suburban Propane, LP,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed July 15, 2003
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 1115502
Christy L. Herreid, 10938 Waconia Court N.E., Blaine, MN 55449 (pro se relator)
Suburban Propane, LP, c/o Sheakley Uniservice, P.O. Box 1160, Columbus, OH 43216 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, 390 Robert Street North, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.
Relator challenges the decision by the commissioner’s representative that although relator had an agreement with her employer to take summers off while her children were home from school, she gave notice to quit employment by declining an offer of continued employment through the summer and was, therefore, disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Relator contends that she was not informed that by declining to work through the summer she would be terminated from employment. Because we find that Herreid did not quit but was, instead, discharged, we reverse.
Relator Christy Herreid began working part time as a customer service representative at Suburban Propane in September 1997. On September 26, 2000, Suburban Propane’s regional manager wrote the following letter to Herreid:
Per our conversation today, you have agreed to employment with Suburban Propane on a part-time basis with compensation of $10.00 per hour and a starting time of 9:00 a.m. We will go with the assumption that you will be allowed to have summers off (when school is out).
As we discussed, allowing you days off during the school year when school is out may not be possible. However, we will try to remain flexible and accommodate you when we can.
Pursuant to this letter, Herreid worked part time during the school year and had the summers off.
In May 2002, Herreid’s manager asked her if she would like to work through the summer. Herreid thought about it for a few days and then declined the offer. The manager told Herreid that they would try to keep the position open so that she could come back in the fall. The manager never told her that if she did not work through the summer that she would lose her job.
On June 6, Herreid’s last scheduled day of work, Herreid’s manager told her that they were going to have to hire somebody for the summer “so [she] was done” and she was not to come back. The manager urged Herreid to sign a document indicating that she quit. Herreid did not sign.
A Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development adjudicator determined that Herreid was disqualified from receiving benefits. On appeal, an unemployment law judge (ULJ) reversed, finding that Herreid was discharged for reasons other than employment misconduct. Suburban Propane appealed, and the commissioner’s representative reversed the ULJ’s decision, finding that Herreid quit her employment without good reason caused by her employer. Herreid appeals that decision on a writ of certiorari.
On appeal, this court reviews the commissioner’s decision, not that of the unemployment law judge. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). “Whether an employee quit or was discharged is a question of fact.” Gonsior v. Alternative Staffing, Inc., 390 N.W.2d 801, 805 (Minn. App. 1986) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Aug. 27, 1986). Whether the employee had good reason to quit caused by the employer 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). We review findings of fact in the light most favorable to the commissioner’s decision and will not disturb them if there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain them. Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
We must first determine whether there is evidence in the record reasonably tending to sustain the decision of the commissioner’s representative that Herreid quit. An employee who quits his or her employment is disqualified from all unemployment benefits unless one of the statutory exceptions applies. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (2002). But an employee who is discharged from employment shall receive unemployment benefits unless he or she engaged in employment misconduct or aggravated employment misconduct. Id., subd. 4 (2002). “A quit from employment occurs when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.” Id., subd. 2(a) (2002). A discharge occurs when the employer’s words or actions would lead a reasonable employee to believe that he or she is no longer allowed to work for the employer in any capacity. Id., subd. 5 (2002).
The commissioner’s representative decided that Herreid was not discharged, but had instead quit, because employment during the summer months was available and she gave notice of quitting by declining the offer of that continued employment. The record, however, does not support this decision. It is undisputed that Herreid, in declining the offer to work through the summer, believed that she could return to employment in the fall as she had previously done. The employment agreement letter clearly recognized that Herreid was to work only during the school year.
Further, in proposing summer employment, Suburban Propane told Herreid that they would try to keep her position open. There was no indication that she would be terminated if she was unable to work through the summer. Only on her last day, was she informed that Suburban Propane would have to replace her. The employer gave no indication at that time that if Herreid changed her mind and worked through the summer she could remain in the position or that she could work for Suburban Propane in a different capacity. The employer’s only comment was that she “was done.” Under the undisputed facts of this case, a conclusion that Herreid was discharged is the only sustainable one. A reasonable person surely would have believed that she was no longer allowed to work at Suburban Propane in any capacity. Herreid was discharged and is eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Our decision that Herreid was discharged from employment makes it unnecessary for us to reach the issue of whether a statutory exception applies that would allow Herreid to collect unemployment benefits if she “quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1).