This opinion will be unpublished and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
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed January 11, 2005
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 6048 04
Michael Morden, 7344 Landau Drive,
Bloomington, MN 55438-2308 (pro se
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 Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from a decision by the commissioner’s representative denying his unemployment benefits for the week ending July 5, 2003, relator argues that he is eligible for unemployment benefits for that period, claiming he was told by a department employee that it was not necessary to call in to apply for benefits for just one week, even though written instructions provided to the contrary. We affirm.
Seagate employee, Michael Morden (relator) took 40 hours off work without pay from June 30, 2003, to July 5, 2003, because his factory shut down for one week. Relator then applied for an unemployment benefit account at the Bloomington WorkForce Center for the week ending July 5, 2003. As part of the application process, relator was given an unemployment handbook notifying him that he would be sent a letter containing his personal identification number (PIN) to be used to access TELECLAIM. The handbook provides detailed instructions on using TELECLAIM, including when the applicant needs to call TELECLAIM. The unemployment handbook also provides that:
IMPORTANT: You must call TELECLAIM as instructed to maintain an active account even if wage information, benefit determinations or an appeal are pending. If you forget or do not call TELECLAIM as scheduled, to answer the questions regarding your ongoing eligibility for the two-week period, you will be denied benefits for that period.
When the relator received the “PIN letter,” it instructed him to call TELECLAIM between July 14, 2003, and July 18, 2003, to request benefits for the week ending July 5, 2003. But rather than calling TELECLAIM as instructed, relator returned to the Bloomington WorkForce Center and asked a receptionist if he had to call TELECLAIM. Relator testified that a receptionist told him “all you gotta do is file for it and you don’t have to call it in because you’re going back to work the next week.” Based on this information, relator did not call TELECLAIM to request benefits. Relator subsequently returned to work after the week ending July 5, 2003.
On April 4, 2004, relator contacted the Bloomington WorkForce Center to request unemployment benefits for the week ending July 5, 2003. The Department of Employment and Economic Development adjudicator denied the request on the basis that relator failed to call TELECLAIM to claim benefits for the period he did not work. Relator appealed, and a department unemployment law judged affirmed. Upon further appeal, a representative of the commissioner also affirmed. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
The construction of statutes governing
eligibility and disqualification for unemployment benefits is a question of law
that this court reviews de novo. Lolling
v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 375 (Minn. 1996). This court exercises its independent
judgment with respect to questions of law.
Ress v. Abbott Northwester Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519,
523 (Minn. 1989). Decisions of the
commissioner’s representative are
accorded “particular deference” when incorporated into legal conclusions. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995) (reaffirming that appellate court review findings of commissioner or commissioner’s representative, not the unemployment law judge).
To be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits, a claimant must establish an active benefit account with the department and must file a continued bi-weekly request for unemployment benefits for that week pursuant to section 268.086. Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 1(1) (2002). A benefit account becomes inactive if the applicant stops filing continued bi-weekly requests with the department or fails to file a continued bi-weekly request with the department within the time required. Minn. Stat. § 268.086, subd. 1(a) (2002). If an applicant fails to respond to the department on the dates designated, the applicant must respond within 14 days following that week or show good cause for the failure to do so. Id., subd. 4(b) (2002).
Here, relator was instructed to call TELECLAIM between July 14, 2003, and July 18, 2003, to request benefits for the week ending July 5, 2003. Relator admits that rather than calling during the specified time period, he called in April 2004, to file his request for benefits. Nevertheless, relator argues that he should remain eligible for unemployment benefits because the reason he did not file a continued request was that someone at the Workforce Center told him that it was unnecessary to call TELECLAIM to file a continued request for benefits.
In order to show “good cause” for his failure to respond to the department on the dates designated, relator must demonstrate “a compelling substantial reason that would have prevented a reasonable person acting with due diligence from filing a continued request for unemployment benefits within the time periods required.” Minn. Stat. § 268.086, subd. 9 (2002). It is unfortunate, but we conclude that relator has not met that burden. The unemployment handbook explicitly states that: “If you forget or do not call TELECLAIM as scheduled, to answer the questions regarding your ongoing eligibility for the two-week period, you will be denied benefits for that period.” This instruction is in sharp contrast to the instruction relator claims he received from a Department employee. The commissioner’s representative concluded that relator’s testimony regarding what he was told was not credible. This court defers to the ability of the commissioner’s representative to weigh any conflicting evidence and to make credibility determinations. See Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995). A reasonable person wanting his unemployment compensation would have noted the discrepancies between the written instructions and asked for an explanation of why he didn’t have to call in when the printed materials said he had to. It could have happened relator’s way, but, giving deference to the commissioner’s representative on credibility determinations, we conclude there was no error in finding relator ineligible for unemployment benefits for the week in which he failed to file a continued request for benefits.
 The TELECLAIM system allows applicants to use a touch-tone telephone to request benefits for a week they are unemployed. Over 100,000 applicants used TELECLAIM to successfully file continued bi-weekly requests for benefits in 2003.