This opinion will be unpublished and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
Nadine S. Schnettler,
College of St. Benedict,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed October 12, 2004
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 18236 03
Nadine S. Schnettler, 26684 Thersia Terrace, Richmond, MN 56368 (pro se relator)
Ronald W. Brandenburg, Melinda M. Sanders, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., 400 South First Street, 600 Wells Fargo Center, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1008 (for respondent College of St. Benedict)
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 Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Anderson, Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
Relator filed for unemployment benefits with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) on October 23, 2003. On January 8, 2004, an Unemployment Law Judge (ULJ) determined relator was disqualified to receive unemployment compensation as a result of her voluntary termination of employment. Relator appealed, and on February 3, 2004, a DEED commissioner’s representative affirmed the ULJ’s decision. We affirm.
Relator Nadine S. Schnettler began working for respondent College of St. Benedict on August 25, 1997 as an associate director of human resources and staff human-rights officer. Relator took an unscheduled vacation day on June 30, 2003, followed by an unscheduled medical leave from July 1, 2003, until July 11, 2003; relator provided a doctor’s note dated July 11 as excuse for the absence. Relator’s supervisor counseled her on July 14, 2003, and September 8, 2003, regarding these incidences and her generally unsatisfactory work performance.
On October 21, 2003, at 9:54 a.m., relator’s supervisor, Herbert Trenz, sent relator an e-mail listing specific employment-performance issues that relator needed to deal with. Specifically, the e-mail addressed three issues: (1) relator’s lack of judgment in deciding to work from home at the last minute, thereby causing a lack of coverage in relator’s office and causing relator to be present in the office only one day that week; (2) relator began a project late and failed to update Trenz on its progress, neglecting numerous inquiries from Trenz; and (3) relator failed to complete her work on the school survey, therefore causing the College of St. Benedict to be excluded from the survey results.
In relator’s responsive e-mail sent on October 21, 2003, at 10:49 a.m. (55 minutes after Trenz’s e-mail), relator attempted to provide excuses for her negligent work habits regarding the first two issues but admitted to the third. Without receiving an immediate response from Trenz, relator sent a second responsive e-mail at 12:06 p.m., stating in part, “I hereby submit my letter of resignation effective immediately.” Additionally, relator expressed concerns in the e-mail that she was being discriminated against due to her depression and rheumatoid arthritis. Relator then immediately left her office and the college.
Trenz replied to relator’s second e-mail at 12:57 p.m. on October 21, 2003. Trenz stated in his response, “As I said in our September meeting and reiterated since then the last thing I want is for you to resign” (emphasis added). The e-mail continued, expressing his desire to meet with relator, discuss their concerns, and develop “an acceptable work plan for [relator].” But relator never received this response from Trenz because she left the building immediately after sending her resignation.
Relator filed for unemployment compensation with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) on October 23, 2003. An Unemployment Law Judge (ULJ) held an evidentiary hearing on December 19, 2003, but relator did not participate in the hearing. The ULJ attempted to telephone relator, but relator’s line was blocked. Thus, respondent was the only party to participate in the hearing. The ULJ ultimately concluded that relator had voluntarily left her employment without good cause attributable to respondent and determined relator was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation. The commissioner’s representative affirmed the ULJ’s decision. This certiorari appeal follows.
On certiorari appeal, a reviewing court must examine the decision of the commissioner’s representative, rather than that of the unemployment law judge, and the decisions of the commissioner’s representative are accorded “particular deference.” Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995); Kalberg v. Park & Recreation Bd. of Minneapolis, 563 N.W.2d 275, 276 (Minn. App. 1997). This deference leads to a review of the “factual findings in the light most favorable to the commissioner’s decision and [this court] 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). But this court will not be bound by the findings of the commissioner’s representative if they do not have reasonable support. Marty v. Digital Equip. Corp., 345 N.W.2d 773, 775 (Minn. 1984). “Whether an employee has been discharged or voluntarily quit is a question of fact”. Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985).
The ultimate determination of whether an employee is disqualified from receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law and is, therefore, reviewed de novo. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989); Kalberg, 563 N.W.2d at 276. Whether the employee quit without good reason attributable to the employer is a mixed question of law and fact based on findings that have the requisite evidentiary support. See Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978) (interpreting predecessor statute, requiring “good cause” attributable to employer).
Relator contends that she is entitled to unemployment benefits because her voluntary termination was due to good reason created by respondent. An employee who voluntarily terminates his or her employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2003). But the employee will not be disqualified if he or she “quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer[.]” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1). Good reason is defined as an action by the employer “(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible” and “(2) that is significant and 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). Here, it is undisputed that relator voluntarily terminated her employment on October 21, 2003, but she alleges respondent discriminated against her based on her medical condition, thus creating good cause.
Relator incorrectly maintains the “reasonable person standard” does not apply to her unemployment-compensation situation. Good cause arises when a situation compels “an average, reasonable worker” to terminate his or her employment “and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a)(2). Relator calls her own claim into question when she states, “Whether real or imagined, I believed I was the victim of disability discrimination[.]” Relator’s belief is irrelevant to her unemployment-benefit claim – the standard is what “an average, reasonable worker” would have done in the same situation. Id.
Furthermore, relator claims, “Here were three separate events (dated 7/14, 9/8, and 10/21/2003), which I believed (real or imagined) to be discriminatory acts against me based on my disabilities.” But events that occur months before a voluntary termination of employment do not necessarily constitute good cause. Cf. Biegner v. Bloomington Chrysler/Plymouth, Inc., 426 N.W.2d 483, 486 (Minn. App. 1988) (stating remarks that ceased three months before voluntary termination could not be used to justify good cause in a sexual-harassment case). The first incident relator refers to, on July 14, is her discussion with her supervisors, Herbert Trenz and Susan Palmer, in which concern was expressed regarding her unscheduled, and relatively unsupported, medical absence.
During the second prior incident, on September 8, relator discussed her medical situation with Palmer and Trenz, requesting reduced hours and responsibilities. But relator admits that Palmer and Trenz expressed further concern regarding relator’s “‘inaccessib[ility]’ due to doctors appointments and [her] daughter’s school/sports activities.” Rather than attempting to rectify the problems cited by her supervisors, relator attempted to shift blame and call other employees’ unrelated actions into question. Following the second incident, relator went so far as to question Trenz on why Palmer did not invite her to play golf with Palmer and two other department employees.
Furthermore, relator’s concerns are unfounded, based on the accommodations made by Palmer and Trenz in relator’s work schedule. Following the September 8, 2003 meeting, Palmer and Trenz approved relator’s request to take Fridays off “to get extra rest/sleep[.]” Relator further complains about Palmer’s request for relator to attend a bimonthly Friday morning meeting. But this concern is moot because Trenz “did not protest” relator’s decision not to attend such meetings.
Moreover, the facts indicate that relator terminated her employment due only to the e-mail from her supervisor on October 21, 2003. First, relator’s response to Trenz’s e-mail was extremely emotional – taking great offense to addressing the issues in writing via e-mail. Second, without waiting for a response, relator sent a second responsive e-mail to Trenz. Third, relator resigned in her second e-mail without discussing the situation with her supervisor or waiting for a response. Fourth, relator immediately left the building and college following her resignation by e-mail. Here, relator simply had a poor relationship with her supervisors, disliked the extent of her responsibilities, and no longer felt she was able to continue with her current work schedule. These concerns fail to establish even a hint of good cause created by respondent. Trego v. Hennepin County Family Day Care Ass’n, 409 N.W.2d 23, 26 (Minn. App. 1987); Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986); Bongiovanni v. Vanlor Inv., 370 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Minn. App. 1985).
Because relator (1) voluntarily terminated her employment with respondents; (2) failed to show she “quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer;” and (3) did not prove a reasonable worker would rather quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment, relator is therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.
 Relator was out of the office on Monday and Tuesday (10/13/2003-10/14/2003) for a conference, in the office Wednesday (10/15/2003), out of the office on Thursday (10/16/2003) due to the unscheduled absence referred to in Trenz’s first e-mail on October 21, 2003, and scheduled to be out Friday (10/17/2003) for medical purposes – her doctor had directed relator to reduce her work schedule due to her medical conditions.
 The revisor of statutes inadvertently substituted the term “ineligible for” for the term “disqualified from” in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subds. 1, 4, 7, 8(a) (Supp. 2003). See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subds. 1, 4, 7, 8(a) (2002) (using term “disqualified from”); 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 3, art. 2, § 11 (making other changes to Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1, but retaining term “disqualified from”); 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 3, art. 2, § 20(j), (k) (directing revisor to change the term “disqualified from” to “ineligible for” only in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 12, and then to renumber to Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13b).