This opinion will be unpublished and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
John F. Bureau, Jr.,
Syntegra (USA), Inc.,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed May 25, 2004
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 3741 03
John F. Bureau, Jr., 720 Mercury Drive West, Shoreview, MN 55126 (pro se relator)
Syntegra (USA) Inc., c/o Talx UCM Services Inc., P.O. Box 283, St. Louis, MO 63166-0283 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 Robert Street North, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Anderson, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
Relator John Bureau challenges the decision of the representative of the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (department) that respondent Syntegra (USA), Inc. discharged him from employment for misconduct. A department adjudicator initially determined that relator was discharged for reasons other than misconduct and was therefore eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Syntegra appealed that decision. A department unemployment law judge reversed the department adjudicator’s determination, concluding that Syntegra discharged Bureau for misconduct thus disqualifying Bureau from receiving unemployment benefits. Bureau appealed to the department’s representative of the commissioner. The commissioner’s representative affirmed the decision of the unemployment law judge. Bureau now appeals, by writ of certiorari, the commissioner’s representative’s decision. We affirm.
Respondent Syntegra employed Bureau from July 2000 until January 2003. Because Bureau’s position at Syntegra required him to travel, Syntegra authorized Bureau to apply for a corporate credit card. Bureau applied for the credit card, but his poor credit history precluded him from receiving approval by the credit card company. Because Bureau could not receive approval based on his own credit history, Syntegra cosigned the credit card application. Syntegra explained to Bureau that it was his responsibility to pay the monthly bill for the credit card and that Syntegra would then reimburse him for actual business expenses. Syntegra advised Bureau that he could not carry over balances on the card from month to month.
From the end of October 2002 until the end of December 2002, Bureau incurred over $11,300 in personal charges on his corporate credit card. Shortly before the bill became due at the end of December, Bureau informed Syntegra that he would be unable to pay the balance. When Bureau did not make the December payment on his bill, the credit card company levied a $312.41 delinquency charge. Syntegra discharged Bureau in January 2003 for violating the company’s credit card policy.
Bureau argues he should not be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because (1) the misconduct, if any, was isolated; (2) other company witnesses testified that charging personal expenses on their corporate credit card was acceptable behavior; and (3) the incident was inadvertent. The commissioner’s representative determined that Bureau was discharged from employment for misconduct because Bureau charged significant personal expenses on his corporate credit card, failed to pay the credit card bill, and knew or should have known that the corporate credit card was for business expenses only. Concluding that no exception to disqualification applied, the commissioner’s representative determined that Bureau was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. We agree.
An employee discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2002). Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp. sets forth a two-prong analysis to determine whether an employee’s actions constitute “employment misconduct” under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6 (2002). 645 N.W.2d 144, 149-50 (Minn. 2002). The employee’s misconduct “must (1) be intentional and (2) disregard [either] standards of behavior the employer has a right to expect or the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.” Houston, 645 N.W.2d at 149. In cases of employee misconduct, “[w]hether an employee engaged in conduct that disqualifies the employee from unemployment benefits is a mixed question of fact and law.” Schmidgall v. Filmtec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002). Whether or not the employee committed the act alleged to be misconduct is a fact question, but whether that act is employment misconduct is a question of law. Scheunemann v. Radisson South Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (Minn. App. 1997). A reviewing court generally defers to the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings, but the reviewing court exercises independent judgment with respect to questions of law. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
Here, the commissioner’s representative found that relator’s employer cosigned for relator’s corporate credit card and told relator that he could not carry over a balance on the credit card. Relator charged $11,360.27 in personal expenses to his corporate credit card and then told his superiors he would be unable to pay the balance on the bill when it came due at the end of the month. The credit card company assessed a late fee for the overdue balance.
Because the record reasonably supports the commissioner’s factual findings, we will not disturb these findings. See Ress, 448 N.W.2d at 523 (stating that the appellate court defers to the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings). After a de novo review, we conclude that Bureau committed employment misconduct as a matter of law. Bureau is therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.