This opinion will be unpublished and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
Annette M. Richter,
Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates Ltd.,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 11175 02 and 11173 02
Annette M. Richter, 6532 Sumter Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428-2237 (relator pro se)
Susan E. Ellingstad, Martin A. Carlson, Lockridge Grindall Nauen P.L.L.P., 100 Washington Avenue South, Suite 2200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for respondent Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates, Ltd.)
Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
In this consolidated appeal, relator Annette Richter challenges the determination of the commissioner’s representative that (1) Richter had not quit her job for a good reason caused by her employer (Case No. C3-03-30), and (2) Richter had been overpaid benefits in the amount of $432 for the period November 18, 2001 to December 8, 2001 (Case No. C7-03-29). Although this case is close, and repayment seems like overkill, finding no error, we affirm.
Respondent Colon & Rectal Surgery Assoc. Ltd. (CRS) is a medical clinic with 11 locations in the Twin Cities. Relator Annette Richter worked for CRS as a receptionist from April 3, 2001, until October 18, 2001. Richter generally worked 32 hours per week, four days per week. Periodically, she worked up to but not more than 40 hours per week. Richter was paid for all of the hours she worked and reimbursed for her travel expenses. Her ending rate of pay was $11.17 per hour.
On October 18, 2001, Richter was sent to the wrong work site and then was criticized for being there. Richter became upset and quit her employment that day. She claims that she quit because of poor management at that time and in the past, and because she was offered a better job. Richter felt her travel and workload were becoming unmanageable resulting from CRS’s decision not to hire a replacement for a similarly situated receptionist. She was required to travel to various CRS locations within the Twin Cities on an “as-needed” basis when an office was under-staffed. She had indicated her frustrations to doctors employed at the clinic and to other coworkers. Respondent CRS alleged that Richter did not follow written company policies (in place at the time of her employment) designed to address these alleged problems.
Richter’s other reason for quitting CRS was that she was offered a higher-paying job working with a local chapter of the steelworkers’ union. In September 2001, Richter was notified by the union that she could begin working in November 2001 and that she would be paid $17.50 per hour. However, the work was not “full-time” employment and Richter has only worked sporadically subsequent to leaving CRS.
On June 20, 2002, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (“the department”) determined that Richter was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits during the time period November 18, 2001, through December 8, 2001, because she quit without good reason caused by her employer. Further, on July 1, 2002, the department determined that, because of the disqualification, Richter had been overpaid $432 in benefits. As a result, Richter was ordered to repay that amount to the department.
Following an affirmance by an unemployment law judge, a representative of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (“the commissioner’s representative”) reviewed the matter de novo. The commissioner’s representative determined (1) that Richter quit her employment at CRS and was disqualified from payment of unemployment benefits (holding that no exception to disqualification pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1, applied), and (2) that Richter is required to repay the $432 in unemployment benefits she received during the period November 18, 2001, to December 8, 2001. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Relator argues that the decision of the commissioner’s representative was in error because her employer forced her out of her job. In reviewing the findings by the commissioner’s representative, this court will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the decision; we determine whether there is evidence in the record that reasonably tends to sustain those findings. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996).
Unless an exception is applicable, an applicant who quits her employment “shall be disqualified from all benefits.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (2000). The first exception to this subdivision states that an applicant will not be disqualified when “the applicant quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1). Subdivision 3 defines “good reason” as 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 remaining in the employment.
This subdivision further states that an employee cannot take advantage of this exception unless he or she has complained to the employer “and give[s] the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions * * *.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(b). “The employee bears the burden of proving there was a good reason to quit.” Hein v. Precision Associates, Inc., 609 N.W.2d 916, 918 (Minn. App. 2000) (citation omitted).
Courts have held that disputes over workplace management do not necessarily provide a good reason to quit. See, e.g., Ryks v. Nieuwsma Livestock Equip., 410 N.W.2d 380, 382 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating irreconcilable differences with an employer do not constitute ‘good cause’ to quit, nor does mere dissatisfaction with working conditions); see also Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986); Bongiovanni v. Vanior Investments, 370 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. App. 1985).
For example, in Trego v. Hennepin Cty. Family Day Care Ass’n, 409 N.W.2d 23 (Minn. App. 1987), an employee quit after becoming dissatisfied with her supervisor and complaining that front-desk staffing was inadequate. This court stated that “an employee’s irreconcilable differences with the employer – i.e. a personality conflict – does not constitute good cause to quit.” Id. at 26 (citing Bongiovanni, 370 N.W.2d at 699). Further, the court stated:
The phrase ‘good cause attributable to the employer’ does not encompass situations where an employee experiences irreconcilable differences with others at work or where the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with h[er] working conditions.
Id. at 26 (quoting Portz, 397 N.W.2d at 14). In light of these standards, the court concluded that “[i]nstead of remaining employed and making an effort to work out her problems * * * [relator] chose to become unemployed” and was therefore ineligible for benefits. Id. at 26.
Here, the record shows Richter quit her job because of what she perceived as poor management and because she found a higher-paying job. Richter testified that she was frustrated with her supervisor because her supervisor sent her to the wrong clinic location on several occasions, gave her too much work and would not hire enough staff. The record supports Richter’s frustration, but Richter concedes that she rarely had to work more than 32 hours per week and agrees she was always paid for all her time. CRS officials testified that the clinic had planned to reduce the number of doctors it employed at the end of the year, which would have resulted in a decreased workload for Richter. Richter failed to give CRS any reasonable notice of or opportunity to correct the alleged problems. Rather than complaining to anyone who had responsibility for staff management, such as her superior’s direct superior or the clinic’s controller, Richter testified that she merely spoke with two clinic doctors on her last day and refused the request of one of those doctors to stay and attempt to resolve the problem. The record indicates that Richter was frustrated and dissatisfied with her working conditions, and instead of remaining employed and making an effort to work out her problems, she chose to become unemployed. The frustration was real, but so is Richter’s ineligibility to receive unemployment-compensation benefits under the law.
Richter’s argument that she quit to take a higher-paying job does not alter our analysis here. The disqualification statute provides that an applicant is not disqualified from benefits when:
[T]he applicant quit the employment to accept other covered employment that provided substantially better terms and conditions of employment, but the applicant did not work long enough at the other employment to have sufficient subsequent earnings to satisfy the disqualification that would otherwise be imposed.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(2).
The “better-work exception” is designed for people who get laid off from that second better-paying job, through no fault of their own, and who do not have enough weeks worked at that second job to qualify for unemployment compensation. In that narrow instance, they may be allowed to add in the weeks of employment from the first job that they quit to take the better-paying job to be able to string together enough weeks to qualify for unemployment compensation. That aspect of the law is not our issue.
Richter contends for the first time on appeal that her workload caused her “undue stress” and was retaliatory. These issues were not raised below, and, therefore, the merits will not be considered on appeal. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988).
Although Richter has detailed difficult working conditions and a taxing managerial posture, such factors do not reach to the level of “good reason to quit” without supporting egregious facts, and none is present in this record.