This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Michael D. Hull,
Media One of St. Paul, Inc.,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed February 8, 2005
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 2550 04
Michael D. Hull, 13152 Fernando Avenue, Apple Valley, MN 55124-8127 (pro se relator)
Media One of St. Paul, Inc., St. Paul Location, c/o Talx UCM Services, Inc., P.O. Box 283, Saint Louis, MO 63166-0283 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, E200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Forsberg, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the decision of the commissioner’s representative that relator was discharged for employment misconduct and is therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment-insurance benefits. Because we conclude that the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact have reasonable evidentiary support and that those findings support the conclusion that relator was discharged for employment misconduct, we affirm.
Relator Michael D. Hull was employed as a cable installer by Media One (now named Comcast) from April 30, 2001, to December 17, 2003. Terry Doffing, Hull’s supervisor, terminated Hull’s employment when she and a human-resources representative discovered improper paperwork completed by Hull. Shortly before this discovery, Doffing issued Hull a written warning for his substandard performance and talked to him regarding a customer complaint alleging that he behaved rudely toward the customer. Hull admits to receiving these and previous warnings from his employer.
Doffing testified that she conducted quality inspections of work completed by Hull from October 13, 2003, through November 10, 2003, and that Hull performed successfully on only 69% of the jobs, missing the employer’s goal of a 90% success rate. Hull disputes this claim because Doffing did not provide documentation of these inspections, and he only failed one inspection of the 13 inspections provided to him. Doffing issued Hull a written warning regarding the results of the quality inspections and reviewed the warning with him on December 8, 2003.
At this meeting, Doffing and Hull also discussed a customer complaint that Media One received about Hull regarding a cable installation that he was supposed to complete on November 19, 2003. The customer cancelled her scheduled installation when she observed Hull working at her neighbor’s apartment during the time he was scheduled to be at her apartment. She also complained that Hull “was very rude” and that she thought that he smelled of alcohol. The complex manager also stated that Hull was “very rude and unprofessional” and that she didn’t want him back at the complex again. She stated that Hull parked his van in the middle of the parking lot in a manner that impeded the movement of other vehicles and that he refused to move the van when asked to do so.
Hull testified that while he was at his truck getting tools to complete the customer’s installation, her neighbor asked Hull to do an installation for him. He explained that he needed to finish the scheduled installation. The neighbor then asked Hull to take a quick look at his hookup to see if there would be a problem. Hull said that while he was doing so, the customer came by and cancelled. Hull testified that after the customer cancelled, he installed the neighbor’s cable. He denied using bad language, acting rudely, or drinking alcohol.
After Doffing and Hull’s meeting, Doffing began an investigation of Hull’s completed paperwork. Doffing discovered that Hull had violated company policy by inaccurately filling out daily-job-completion forms. Hull failed to count rescheduled jobs and failed to receive permission from his supervisor or lead to do so. This omission inflated the percentage of the number of jobs that he reported completed. Doffing testified that the company depends on the completeness and accuracy of the daily-job-completion forms to reflect the company’s monthly completion and that the employer awards employee teams that complete more than 92% of their work orders. After discovering the improper paperwork, Doffing and a human resources representative terminated Hull’s employment.
Hull applied for unemployment benefits. The Minnesota Department of Economic Security found that Hull was not terminated for employment misconduct and awarded him benefits. Media One appealed, and an Unemployment Law Judge (ULJ) reversed the department’s decision. Hull appealed the ULJ’s decision.
The commissioner’s representative determined that Hull was discharged for employment misconduct and was therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. The commissioner’s representative found that the preponderance of the evidence indicated that Hull treated a customer rudely and inappropriately; that Hull intentionally filled out paperwork incorrectly in violation of the employer’s known procedures; and that Hull, for lack of effort, was performing below Media One’s reasonable standards. The commissioner’s representative determined that Hull’s conduct evinced a serious violation of the standards of behavior that Media One had a right to expect and also showed a substantial disregard for his employment. This certiorari appeal follows.
“Whether an employee engaged in conduct that disqualifies the employee from unemployment benefits is a mixed question of fact and law.” Schmidgall v. Filmtec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002). This court defers to the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact if they are reasonably supported by the evidence in the record, but independent judgment is exercised with respect to questions of law. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). Whether an employee’s acts constitute misconduct is a question of law. Id.
A person discharged from employment because of employment misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (Supp. 2003). Employment misconduct is
any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job (1) that evinces a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee, or (2) that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a) (Supp. 2003).
Hull challenges the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact and the conclusion that he committed employment misconduct. Hull challenges the finding regarding the unsatisfactory quality inspections because the commissioner’s representative credited Doffing’s testimony even though she did not produce documentary evidence of the inspections. Hull challenges the finding that he installed cable in a customer’s neighbor’s apartment at the time he was scheduled to install the customer’s cable and claims that the customer’s complaint contained insufficient detail regarding the allegations of his rude behavior. Hull also challenges the finding that he intentionally filled out paperwork incorrectly, and he claims that he properly filled out the paperwork to the best of his knowledge.
We conclude that the evidence in the record reasonably supports the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative. Doffing’s testimony supports the commissioner’s representative’s finding that Hull had performed satisfactorily on only 69% of the jobs inspected from October 13, 2003, to November 11, 2003. Doffing’s testimony and the investigative report support the findings that Hull was working on a potential customer’s cable rather than the installation he was scheduled to work on and that Hull was rude to the customer. Doffing’s testimony and the exhibits of the daily-job-completion forms and work orders also provide support for the finding that Hull intentionally completed his daily paperwork inaccurately and inflated the number of jobs that he completed.
Although this court defers to the commissioner’s representative’s findings of fact, it makes an independent determination of whether the alleged conduct satisfies the statutory definition of employment misconduct. Ress, 448 N.W.2d at 523.
The commissioner’s representative found that Hull’s rude behavior toward a customer constituted employment misconduct. An employee’s continuous rude behavior toward customers in spite of several warnings to correct such behavior supports a finding that the employee committed employment misconduct. Montgomery v. F & M Marquette Nat’l Bank, 384 N.W.2d 602, 605 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. June 13, 1986); Pitzel v. Packaged Furniture & Carpet, 362 N.W.2d 357, 357-58 (Minn. App. 1985). Although Media One presented no evidence of previous complaints regarding Hull’s behavior toward customers, we conclude that Media One had a right to reasonably expect that Hull would treat customers with respect and in a professional manner. Failure to do so reflects poorly on the employer, and in this case it caused the loss of a customer. Hull’s behavior toward the customer seriously violated the standards of behavior that Media One had a right to expect of its employees.
The commissioner’s representative also found that Hull’s conduct of intentionally filling out paperwork incorrectly was employment misconduct. An employee’s honest or unintentional mistake in filling out paperwork is not sufficient to qualify as employment misconduct. See Morrison County Soil & Water Conservation Dist. v. Armstrong, 394 N.W.2d 184, 186 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that an employee’s unintentional and honest mistakes regarding the procedure for recording comp time on his time cards did not qualify as employment misconduct). But an employee commits employment misconduct when he acts dishonestly toward his employer and provides the employer with false information. See Baron v. Lens Crafters, Inc., 514 N.W.2d 305, 308 (Minn. App. 1994) (determining that an employee’s failure to perform his job responsibilities coupled with his dishonesty about that failure was employment misconduct). Media One had a right to reasonably expect Hull to accurately complete his paperwork. Doffing testified that the company depended on the completeness and accuracy of the daily completion forms to show the company’s monthly completion. Hull’s intentional failure to correctly comply with Media One’s procedures for filling out paperwork demonstrated a serious violation of the standards that Media One had a right to expect of him and showed a substantial disregard for his employment.
The commissioner’s representative found that Hull’s substandard performance for lack of effort was also employment misconduct. The knowing violation of an employer’s policies, rules, or reasonable requests may be considered employment misconduct. Montgomery, 384 N.W.2d at 604. But an employee who is sincerely trying to be a good employee and is just unable to perform up to an employer’s expectations has not committed employment misconduct. Bray v. Dogs & Cats Ltd., 679 N.W.2d 182, 185 (Minn. App. 2004). “Simple unsatisfactory conduct” does not qualify as employment misconduct. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a). But we conclude that poor performance due to a lack of effort after receiving prior warnings is not simple unsatisfactory conduct. An employer has a right to reasonably expect that its employees will make reasonable efforts to meet the employer’s standards of performance.
The record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s findings that Hull behaved rudely and inappropriately toward a customer, intentionally completed paperwork inaccurately, and failed to make an effort to perform up to the employer’s expectations. Such conduct evinces a serious disregard for the standards of behavior that Media One had a right to reasonably expect of its employees and shows a substantial disregard for the employment. The commissioner’s representative did not err by concluding that Hull committed employment misconduct and that he is therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 The revisor’s office 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).