This opinion will be unpublished and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

A03-885

 

Michael T. Daniels,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Onan Corporation,

Respondent,

 

Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,

Respondent.

 

Filed March 2, 2004

Affirmed

Toussaint, Chief Judge

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 1886 03

 

Michael T. Daniels, 7149 Colorado Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55429 (pro se relator)

 

Onan Corporation, 1400 73rd Avenue Northeast, Fridley, MN 55432 (respondent)

 

Lee B. Nelson, Dept. of Employment and Economic Development, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development)

 

            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Minge, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.[1]


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

 

TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

 

            On certiorari appeal from a decision by the commissioner’s representative disqualifying relator from receiving unemployment benefits due to “employment misconduct,” as defined in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (2002), relator argues that (a) management condoned his behavior; (b) the decision misinterprets employer policy; (c) he was not given adequate notice of possible termination for his actions; and (d) the unemployment law judge was overtly aggressive toward him and refused to consider his arguments.  Because the record contains ample evidence supporting the conclusion of the commissioner’s representative that relator was discharged for employment misconduct, we affirm.

FACTS

            On January 8, 2003, pro se relator Michael T. Daniels was discharged for employment misconduct after sending inappropriate e-mail correspondences to his co-workers on computers owned by his employer, respondent Onan Corporation.  The e-mails depicted (1) Osama bin Laden hanging upside down, with his genitals exposed; and (2) a group of Muslim men on their knees praying with one man posed behind them, and a caption that read, “Can you find the gay Muslim?”  These communications were sent after Daniels received a verbal warning from management in October 2002 for previously sending an inappropriate e-mail.  Daniels concedes he received Onan’s policy handbook, which states that dissemination of messages, graphics, or other communications “which involve inappropriate language, humor, images, or audio; and communications which are deemed to be discriminatory, threatening, or constitute sexual harassment” is forbidden.

            Because Daniels was discharged for employment misconduct, as defined in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (2002), he was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  An unemployment law judge affirmed the disqualification after an evidentiary hearing, finding that Daniels’s “conduct and actions in sending E-mails which contained jokes and pictures which derogate any individual’s or group’s religion or sexual preference, after being warned about similar conduct, constitutes misconduct.”  A representative of the commissioner of economic security later affirmed the unemployment law judge’s determination.

            Daniels now brings a certiorari appeal of the decision of the commissioner’s representative, arguing that (1) management condoned his behavior; (2) the determination misinterprets employer policy, and that the messages were not “deemed” offensive by anyone receiving them; (3) he did not have notice of possible termination for his actions; and (4) the unemployment law judge was overtly aggressive toward him and refused to consider his arguments.

D E C I S I O N

            This court’s scope of review of determinations made by the commissioner’s representative is “extremely limited.”  Grotjohn v. Cornbelt Foods, Inc. 370 N.W.2d 48, 50 (Minn. App. 1985).  The findings are reviewed in the light most favorable to the decision and, if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed on appeal.  White v. Metro. Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn.1983). 

            Here,   the commissioner’s representative rejected Daniels’s arguments, determining the October 2002 meeting and verbal warning, coupled with the Onan’s policy handbook, put Daniels on notice that his actions violated company policy.  The representative found Daniels’s testimony supporting his arguments “evasive and self-serving,” and therefore not credible.  Further, the representative determined that Daniels received a fair and impartial hearing from the unemployment law judge.

            Reviewing the record, there is ample evidence supporting the determination of the commissioner’s representative that Daniels was terminated for “employment misconduct,” as defined in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (2002).  Daniels concedes that during his October 2002 meeting he understood that inappropriate communication “wasn’t gonna be tolerated anymore,” and that such conduct was “against the policy, against the rules.”  Onan’s written policy also clearly forbids such behavior.  Nonetheless, Daniels admits sending both e-mails in question after his warning.  In light of these facts, the representative did not abuse his discretion in determining that such action was “intentional conduct . . . that disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect of the employee . . . “ Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a)(1).  Considering the content of the e-mails, Daniels’s suggestion that they were not inappropriate is meritless.

            The transcript of the administrative law judge’s proceedings also supports the decision of the commissioner’s representative that Daniels received a fair hearing.  The purpose of the evidentiary hearing is to gather evidence for the unemployment law judge to make a determination; it “need not conform to common law or statutory rules of evidence and other technical rules of procedure.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 1(b) (2002).  It need only conform to the specifications delineated in Minn. R. 3310.2921 (2001), which mandate that the referee allow the parties to present evidence, rebuttal testimony, and a closing argument.  The transcript reveals that the administrative law judge fully conformed to these standards and made a decision based on the evidence presented. 

Considering our limited scope of review, the content of the e-mail messages, and the over-abundance of evidence supporting the decision, the determinations of the commissioner’s representative will not be disturbed.

            Affirmed.

             



[1] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.