This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed July 20, 2004
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 11105 03
Judy A. Cooper Lyle, 5812 11th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417-3202 (pro se relator)
Northwest Suburban Integration School District, 11275 96th Avenue North, Maple Grove, MN 55369 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 Robert Street North, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
Relator challenges the decision of the commissioner’s representative that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit without good reason caused by her employer. We affirm.
In September 2002, respondent Northwest Suburban Integration School District (the district) hired relator Judy Cooper Lyle as a part-time co-coordinator for a cultural-arts program. Three months later, the district hired Lue Her to supervise the program.
As part of a reorganization effort, Her held a meeting with relator and another co-coordinator in April 2003. At the meeting, Her explained that their positions would be consolidated into a single full-time position, but he was also creating another lower-paying position. Her asked relator and the other co-coordinator to decide who would take each position. While this decision was pending, relator sent an e-mail to a coworker on May 20, 2003, in which she referred to Her as “a little bastard.”
On May 22, 2003, Her held another meeting with relator and the other co-coordinator. At the meeting, they discussed which person would take the new positions, but the matter was not resolved. As relator and the other co-coordinator were leaving, Her asked relator to stay behind. Her then confronted relator with the May 20 e-mail. According to relator, Her then told relator she should either “quit or be fired.”
Later that day, relator sent an e-mail to Her that said,
I am leaving [the district] effective today. I have e-mailed [a human resources representative] and told her of my decision. I expect my contract through June 30th will be honored.
The e-mail sent to human resources is not part of the record, but the recipient in human resources treated it as relator’s resignation. The district compensated relator through May 30, 2003, but relator did not return to the district after May 22, 2003.
Relator sought unemployment benefits in June 2003. The district opposed relator’s claim, contending that relator voluntarily quit and thus was disqualified from receiving benefits. The matter proceeded to a hearing before an unemployment law judge, who denied relator’s claim.
Relator challenged this decision and sought de novo review from the commissioner’s representative. Based on relator’s stated intention to leave the district on May 22 and her failure to report to the district afterwards, the commissioner’s representative found that relator quit that day. The commissioner’s representative also found that, despite the acrimonious relationship between relator and Her, relator did not report any concerns about Her’s actions to the district until after relator’s departure. Holding that an acrimonious relationship did not constitute a good reason to quit attributable to the employer, the commissioner’s representative concluded that relator was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. This certiorari appeal followed.
We review the findings of the commissioner’s representative rather than those of the unemployment law judge. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). In doing so, we view the factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision to determine whether the evidence reasonably sustains them. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).
“A quit from employment occurs when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2002). Once an employee submits notice that he or she is quitting, that employee is considered to have quit unless the employer agrees that the notice may be withdrawn. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(c) (2002); see also Wing-Piu Chan v. Pagoda, Inc., 342 N.W.2d 174, 175 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that employer is entitled to rely on employee’s notice of resignation).
The evidence is sufficient to establish that an employee voluntarily quit when the employee leaves an employer rather than await the outcome of disciplinary action. Ramirez v. Metro Waste Control Comm’n, 340 N.W.2d 355, 358 (Minn. App. 1983). Cf. Bongiovanni v. Vanlor Investments, 370 N.W.2d 697, 698-99 (Minn. App. 1985) (shareholder employee voluntarily quit when she did not await the outcome of litigation regarding corporate control). This principle applies even if the employer poses an ultimatum to the employee. Seacrist v. City of Cottage Grove, 344 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. App. 1984). Thus, when an employee is required to choose between resignation and disciplinary action and the employee chooses to resign, there is reasonable evidence to support a finding that the employee voluntarily quit. Id.
After meeting with her supervisor on August 22, relator sent an e-mail indicating that she was leaving the district, and she did not return thereafter. The district was entitled to rely on relator’s initial representation that she was leaving. Even if relator’s actions were provoked by a choice between disciplinary action and termination, there is reasonable evidence to sustain the finding of the commissioner’s representative that relator voluntarily quit. Id.
We next consider whether relator quit with good reason. Whether an employee has good cause to quit is a question of law, which we review de novo. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000). An employee who quits employment shall be disqualified from all unemployment benefits unless the employee quits due to “a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). A good reason caused by the employer is one that is “directly related to the employment” and is significant enough to “compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remain in the employment.” Id., subd. 3(a)(1), (2) (2002). But when an employee claims a good reason to quit is based on purported adverse working conditions, the employee must first complain to the employer and provide a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse conditions. Id., subd. 3(b) (2002); see also Haskins v. Choice Auto Rental, 558 N.W.2d 507, 511 (Minn. App. 1997).
Personality conflicts with an employer or supervisor do not supply good reason to quit. Ryks v. Nieuwsma Livestock Equipment, 410 N.W.2d 380, 381-82 (Minn. App. 1987); Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). When adverse working conditions arise out of a personality conflict with a supervisor, the employee has an obligation to report this conflict to the employer before using the conflict to justify quitting. Ryks, 410 N.W.2d at 382.
Relator did not report any difficulties with her supervisor until after she quit. Even if relator had reported a personality conflict with Her, it is well established that adverse working conditions related to this conflict do not establish good reason to quit. See id. Thus, we conclude that the commissioner’s representative did not err in concluding that relator quit her employment without good cause attributable to her employer.