This opinion will be unpublished and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 R. Larson,
Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, Inc.,
Commissioner of Employment
and Economic Development,
Filed October 19, 2004
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 11774 03
John R. Larson, 4930 Road 44, Aurora, MN 55705 (pro se relator)
Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, Inc., 8355 Unity Drive, Suite 100, Virginia, MN 55792-2300 (respondent employer)
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, 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, Klaphake, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*
Pro se relator John R. Larson brings this certiorari appeal to challenge a decision by a representative of respondent Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development that disqualified him from receiving unemployment benefits. The representative determined that relator quit his job without good reason caused by his employer, respondent Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, Inc. Because the record reasonably supports the representative’s decision, we affirm.
Our scope of review in unemployment cases is narrow and limited to determining whether the record reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner’s representative. Tuff v. Knitcraft, 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). The issue of whether the facts as found by the commissioner amount to a good reason caused by the employer to quit is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Ryks v. Nieuwsma Livestock Equip., 410 N.W.2d 380, 382 (Minn. App. 1987); Forsberg v. Depth of Field Fabrics, 347 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1984).
An employee who quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless the employee quits for a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). A good reason to quit is “directly related to the employment . . . for which the employer is responsible” and so significant that it would “compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a)(1), (2) (2002).
The test for reasonableness is an objective one and is applied to the average person, not to the supersensitive. Ferguson v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976). Thus, a good reason to quit is not established when an employee has irreconcilable differences with his employer or when the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with his working conditions. See, e.g., Ryks, 410 N.W.2d at 382-83; Trego v. Hennepin County Family Day Care Ass’n, 409 N.W.2d 23, 27 (Minn. App. 1987); Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986); Bongiovanni v. Vanlor Invs., 370 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. App. 1985).
Here, relator claims that he quit his employment due to harassment by his employer, particularly his immediate supervisor. Relator claims that his supervisor began treating him unfairly after he told her that he would look for a new job when she rejected his request for a raise and his alternative proposal to work fewer hours at the same rate of pay. The supervisor explained to relator that a raise was not possible, given the company’s nonprofit status and tight fiscal situation. Relator claims that his supervisor accused him of falsifying expense reports and a timesheet; he characterizes her actions as “vindictive [nit]-picking and petty proddings.” Yet e-mails between the two revealed that on several occasions his supervisor made legitimate inquiries into his claimed expenses and work hours. While relator defended his reports and believed that they were justified, his supervisor was acting reasonably and within the scope of her authority to question him.
In addition, if an employee claims that he was “subjected to adverse working conditions by the employer, [he] must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions before that may be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(b) (2002). Here, relator did not complain about his perceptions of harassment. Cf. Tru-Stone Corp. v. Gutzkow, 400 N.W.2d 836, 838 (Minn. App. 1987) (affirming finding of good cause due to harassment by coworkers, where employee complained several times to employer, who did little or nothing to stop activity of coworkers). Indeed, relator’s supervisor testified that she was rather surprised at relator’s claim of harassment; although she knew “things were not going well,” she was not aware that he believed he was being harassed. And when relator did give notice that he was resigning, he did not inform his supervisor that he was doing so because of harassment or intolerable working conditions.
Relator finally complains that the unemployment law judge was “biased toward management” because she was not “willing to consider any of [his] evidence” and she “did not allow anything during the hearing to change her mind.” A reading of the transcript of the hearing, however, demonstrates that the judge gave relator ample opportunity to present evidence, testimony, and arguments to support his claim. She even continued the hearing to another date, when it became apparent that additional time was needed. Contrary to relator’s characterization of the judge as unwilling and biased, the judge appears to have made every effort to understand relator’s lengthy and emotionally charged explanations as to why he believed he was harassed and forced into quitting his job prematurely.
While it may be entirely true that relator was, as he states, so “stressed” and “paranoid” that he actually believed that his employer was trying to make him quit, that is not the test to be applied by us to determine whether he had good reason to quit. The test is objective, not subjective, and requires us to consider whether the average, reasonable employee in relator’s position would have felt compelled to quit his job and become unemployed. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a)(1), (2). Because we agree that relator failed to establish good reason to quit, we affirm the decision of the commissioner’s representative disqualifying relator from receiving unemployment benefits.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.