This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Halstad Telephone Co.,
Commissioner of Employment and
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 19362 03
Lisa Edison-Smith, Leah Warner, Vogel Law Firm, 218 NP Avenue, P.O. Box 1389, Fargo, ND 58107-1389 (for relator)
Thomas E. Marshall, Jon S. Olson, Jackson Lewis LLP, 150 Fifth Street Towers, Suite 1450, 150 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 5504 (for respondent Halstad Telephone Company)
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development)
and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge;
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Respondent employed relator for over 20 years before she quit on October 21, 2003. Relator held the position of office manager in the small company of approximately 14 employees. During all relevant times, relator knew that under respondent’s written policy prohibiting sexual harassment, employees were encouraged to report any incidents of sexual harassment.
or three years before she quit, relator told respondent’s general manager Ron
Laqua that plant manager
Relator later retained attorney
though [relator] reported
Upon receipt of Ramstad’s letter, respondent granted relator a paid leave of absence and conducted an investigation. Respondent ultimately concluded that there appeared to be merit to some of relator’s claims. As a result, respondent suspended Maroney for a week without pay, required that he attend a class on sexual harassment, required that he participate in mediation if relator so chose, and informed him that subsequent incidents would lead to further discipline, up to and including termination. In a letter dated October 20, 2003, respondent informed Ramstad of the disciplinary action taken against Maroney, and stated that respondent expected relator to return to work on October 22, 2003.
In a letter dated October 21, 2003, Ramstad informed respondent:
cannot understand how the cooperative can even consider the continued
Answering this letter, respondent asked for formal notice of relator’s decision to terminate her employment but stated that it would consider termination effective October 22, 2003, if no notice were given. In a letter dated October 28, 2003, respondent informed Ramstad that it acknowledged relator’s decision to terminate employment but stated that it was willing to allow relator the opportunity to reconsider her decision.
Relator subsequently sought unemployment benefits, and a department adjudicator determined that she was qualified for benefits because she quit her employment for a good reason caused by her employer. Respondent appealed, and a department unemployment law judge affirmed, premised on the absence of “timely and appropriate action” by respondent after the reports given before October 2003. On respondent’s further appeal, the commissioner’s representative reversed the judge’s decision and held that relator was disqualified from the payment of unemployment benefits.
The commissioner’s representative found that
respondent’s response to relator’s October 6 letter was timely and appropriate,
and that when she quit, relator knew the steps that respondent had taken and
acted unreasonably when she “made her return to work conditional upon Maroney’s
discharge.” The representative
discounted relator’s complaint about prior responses of the employer based on a
finding that relator “did not pursue her remedies under [respondent’s] sexual
harassment and discrimination policy by informing a board member or
must 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,
An applicant who
quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless,
among other exceptions, the employee quits for a good reason caused by the
Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2003). Under relevant
On appeal, relator does not dispute the commissioner’s finding that she failed to make a complaint in the fashion stated in respondent’s harassment policy. Although that determination may be conclusive, we further review appellant’s assertion that she had good cause to quit because the employer failed in its duty to investigate her three complaints that occurred before counsel acted on her behalf. As noted above, relator asked Laqua not to act when she first reported the harassment. Respondent took action the second time relator reported the harassment. The third time relator reported the harassment, relator said that the harassment was continuing, but offered no further information.
that no matter what the form of abuse disclosures, an employer has an
affirmative duty to investigate a complaint of sexual harassment. See Peppi v.
Relator also contends that respondent’s past failings to respond to her complaints factored into her demand that Maroney be discharged. Relator believed that Maroney’s harassment would not otherwise be stopped—she would be required to “return to the lion’s den.” In support of this position, relator relies upon McNabb v. Cub Foods, 352 N.W.2d 378, 384 (Minn. 1984) (holding that employee had good cause to quit because employer knew about harassment and failed to take timely and appropriate remedial action); Hanke v. Safari Hair Adventure, 512 N.W.2d 614, 618 (Minn. App. 1994) (holding that employee had good cause to quit because he received no reasonable assurances or expectation of assistance); Clark v. K-Mart Store No. 3059, 372 N.W.2d 847, 851 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that employee had good cause to quit because employer failed to take any action whatsoever upon learning of the harassment). But these are distinguishable from the case at hand.
In McNabb, Cub Foods transferred McNabb to another store after she
first complained of harassment, but the harassment continued at the new
location. 352 N.W.2d. at 380. McNabb complained again, but nothing more
was done so she quit.
Here, unlike the cases above, relator quit after respondent investigated the complaints and imposed discipline. Relator has failed to show error in the determination of the commissioner’s representative that this investigation and discipline was timely and appropriate. Thus, the representative did not err in deciding that relator acted unreasonably by conditioning her return to work upon Maroney’s discharge. The record supports the conclusion that relator quit because she disagreed with the discipline imposed. Under these facts, there is no exception to disqualification from unemployment benefits.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
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