This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Cynthia L. Woods,





Spectrum Community Health, Inc.,



Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,



Filed May 4, 2004


Willis, Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 2677 03


Todd E. Deal, Deal & Pineo, 230 First Street South, Suite 106, P.O. Box 1253, Virginia, MN  55792 (for relator)


Spectrum Community Health, Inc., 2021 East Hennepin Avenue, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN  55413-2500 (respondent)


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


Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Relator challenges the determination of the commissioner’s representative that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment-insurance benefits because she was discharged for employment misconduct.  Because we conclude that the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact have reasonable evidentiary support and that relator committed employment misconduct, we affirm.


            Relator Cynthia L. Woods, L.P.N., began working as an assisted-living site coordinator for respondent Spectrum Community Health, Inc., in June 1984.  Her responsibilities included supervising certified nursing assistants (CNAs), whose duties included administering medications to residents of Spectrum’s assisted-living facility in Virginia, Minnesota.  The CNAs were required to initial the “medication-administration record” portion of the residents’ medical charts each time they administered medications.  Woods was responsible for making certain that the medication-administration records were completed each day.  If she noticed that initials were missing from such a record, it was her practice to check the resident’s pill counter and, if the pill counter for that day was empty, she would assume that the CNA had administered the medication and would write the CNA’s initials on the record.  

            In December 2002, Woods’s supervisor, Sherry Leoni, learned of Woods’s practice of writing CNAs’ initials on medication-administration records.  Leoni notified her supervisor, Mary Stevens, and Stevens concluded that Woods’s practice constituted the falsification of medical records.  Spectrum’s employment policies provided that falsification of medical records was a ground for immediate termination of employment.  On December 20, Stevens discharged Woods. 

            Woods applied for unemployment benefits, and the department of employment and economic development determined that she had been discharged for employment misconduct and was, therefore, disqualified from receiving benefits.  Woods appealed, and an unemployment-law judge reversed the department’s determination.  Spectrum appealed, and the commissioner’s representative reversed, finding that Woods had committed employment misconduct.  This appeal follows.


Woods argues that the record does not support the commissioner’s representative’s conclusion that she committed employment misconduct.  An employee discharged for employment misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2002).  The commissioner’s determination that an employee is disqualified for reasons of misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law.  Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).  “We review the commissioner’s factual findings in the light most favorable to the commissioner’s decision and will not disturb them as long as there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain those findings.”  Schmidgall v. Filmtec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002).  Whether a particular act constitutes disqualifying misconduct is a question of law, which we review de novo.  Id.

            The commissioner’s representative’s factual findings are not in dispute.  Woods admits that she wrote CNAs’ initials on medication-administration records, thereby confirming that the medications in question had been administered.  Further, Woods admits that she initialed records although she had not seen the CNAs administer the medications or questioned the CNAs regarding whether the medications had, in fact, been administered.  Woods does not claim that writing the CNAs’ initials on the medication-administration records was a practice authorized by Spectrum, and she does not claim that her supervisors at Spectrum knew of and condoned the practice.  Instead, Woods argues simply that writing the CNAs’ initials on medication-administration records did not constitute employment misconduct.

Employment misconduct is 

(1)       any intentional conduct . . . that disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect of the employee or disregards the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer; or


(2)       negligent or indifferent conduct . . . that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment.


Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a) (2002).[1]   Toconstitute employment misconduct under subdivision 6(a)(1), conduct must “(1) be intentional and (2) disregard standards of behavior the employer has a right to expect or the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.”  Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp., 645 N.W.2d 144, 149 (Minn. 2002).  To establish employment misconduct,

there must be a sufficient showing in the record that the employee not only engaged in intentional conduct, but also intended to, or engaged in conduct that evinced an intent to, ignore or pay no attention to his or her duties and obligations or the standards of behavior the employer has a right to expect.


Id. at 150.  A single deliberate act adverse to the employer may constitute misconduct. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 524 (Minn. 1989).

            Woods does not contest that writing the CNAs’ initials on the records was an intentional act, but she claims that her actions did not show that she intended to disregard her duties or the standards of behavior that Spectrum had a right to expect from her.  She argues that by initialing the medication-administration records she intended only to discharge her job duties, which included making certain that the medication-administration records were completed daily.  She also contends that she was not “merely guessing” that the medications had been properly administered because her experience at Spectrum led her to believe that if a resident’s pill counter was empty, the medications actually had been administered.

             The record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s determination that Woods committed employment misconduct.  The commissioner’s representative based her determination of misconduct on her conclusion that Woods’s conduct “was not only in contravention of [Spectrum’s] policy which prohibited nurses from falsifying medical records” but also her conduct violated “standard nursing practices.”  Woods testified that it was “unethical” to write CNAs’ initials on the medical-administration records and that she knew that nurses are “not supposed to do that.”  And on appeal, she admits that her conduct was not consistent with “proper medical and nursing protocol” and that “[t]here is no question that . . . [she] violated the rules and policies of her employer.”  The supreme court has stated that “if there is one unique area of employment law where strict compliance with protocol and militarylike discipline is required, it is in the medical field.”  Id. at 525.  An employer engaged in the business of providing medical care to elderly and vulnerable adults has a right to expect that a licensed nurse in a supervisory position will abide by the established protocols of the nursing profession.  By violating those protocols, Woods demonstrated an intent to ignore or disregard the standards of behavior that Spectrum had the right to expect.  See Houston, 645 N.W.2d at 150. 


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

[1] Amendments made to Minn. Stat. § 268.095 in 2003 changed the statutory definition of “employment misconduct.”  Because Woods was discharged before the August 1, 2003 effective date of the amendments, the 2002 statute applies.