This opinion will be unpublished and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
Kathleen Gunnison Mattila,
Stora Enso North American Corp.,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed April 26, 2005
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 11150 03
Kathleen G. Mattila,
Stora Enso North American Corp., St. Louis Park Sales Office Location, c/o Jon Jay Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 182523, Columbus, OH 43218-2523 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, E-200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this certiorari appeal, Kathleen Gunnison Mattila challenges the decision by the commissioner’s representative that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she had quit employment without good reason caused by her employer. She argues that (a) she was fired and did not quit and (b) her employer harassed her. We affirm.
Several hearings were held in this matter and several decisions were issued by the unemployment law judge (ULJ), but the commissioner remanded for additional hearings due to malfunctions with the recording equipment that resulted in an incomplete record. The April 20, 2004, hearing yielded a complete record.
Mattila worked full time as a technician for respondent Stora Enso North American Corp. from October 1989 to May 19, 2003. The employer had a reduction in work force in March 2003 and offered feedback sessions to employees who had been affected. Mattila initially volunteered. Because the employer wished to discuss some performance issues with her, her manager and a human resources administrator decided to make her feedback session mandatory and advised her of this decision.
On May 6, 2003, Mattila had just
completed a stretch of overtime in which she worked over 100 hours in eight
days. After completing the night shift,
she began a previously scheduled two-week vacation and had gone to bed when the
her at home to discuss a time and date for the session. Mattila believed this was harassment. She nonetheless suggested June 2, but the administrator could not confirm that date and instead asked when Mattila would be at work. Mattila advised her it would be May 16 and the administrator told her the meeting could be that day.
When Mattila returned to work on Friday, May 16, the administrator asked her to attend the meeting, but she refused. The administrator urged her to participate, telling her “c’mon, let’s go.” Mattila explained that she considered this to be a “verbal slap” and felt that because she had received no notice, she was being treated like a “prisoner.” Her manager then called her on the telephone and she reiterated that she would not join them. The manager then sent the administrator and another employee to convince her to attend and she still refused.
Mattila was then suspended for two days and placed on decision-making leave, under which she was required to go in the following Monday morning for feedback or lose her job. Mattila then called her manager at home on Sunday morning and requested an exit interview. He told her that an exit interview was not necessary, but that they just wanted to give her some feedback to improve her performance.
Mattila met with her manager the following Monday. She told him how badly she believed the reorganization went, how she had to work 100 hours in eight days, how she felt the administrator had treated her the previous Friday, and why she refused to attend the meeting. She said that she was not quitting and that she was not coming back to work. For the sake of clarity, her manager told her that she was terminated.
The ULJ determined that Mattila quit without good reason caused by her employer, and she appealed to the commissioner’s representative. The commissioner’s representative affirmed and this certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Findings by the commissioner’s
representative will be upheld if reasonably supported by the evidence when
viewed in the light most favorable to the decision. Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644
N.W.2d 801, 804 (
Mattila first argues that her employer terminated her and that she did not quit. An applicant who quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless an exception applies. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (2002).
The statute defines “quit” as occurring “when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2002). “Discharge” is defined as occurring “when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer will no longer allow the employee to work for the employer in any capacity.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5(a) (2002).
Mattila argues that she was fired at
the end of the May 19 meeting, citing her manager’s statement that he was going
to terminate her. It is not disputed
that he made this
statement. But as the commissioner notes, under the definition of quit, the question is whether the decision to end the employment was the employee’s decision. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2. This court must examine whether the evidence reasonably supports the determination that it was. Schmidgall, 644 N.W.2d at 804. As the commissioner points out, even when Mattila called her supervisor at home and told him she wanted an exit interview, he told her that there was no need for an exit interview if she participated in the feedback session. Further, although Mattila had been told that her actions could result in discharge from employment, she was not discharged at that point, and could have continued working for the employer. In addition, on May 19, 2003, Mattila maintained that she was not quitting, but said that she was not returning to work; the commissioner found that she therefore determined her employment would end and chose to quit. The fact that the employer then tried to clarify the situation by telling Mattila that she was terminated does not change the fact that she, not her employer, chose to end employment. The evidence reasonably supports the determination that Mattila decided to leave her job when work was still available.
Mattila, however, refers to one of her earlier hearings, in which the tape malfunctioned and failed to pick up anything but the voice of the judge. She cites the judge’s responses indicating that her manager agreed initially that she had been terminated. We do not find this dispositive. Her manager testified at the hearing, of which they did have a complete transcript, that he told her “she was terminated.” Despite this, a review of the transcript provides evidence to support the commissioner’s determination that she quit.
Mattila also discusses a decision made by a board of employees who apparently review discharge decisions. She notes that her manager participated in that review and that he signed a document upholding her “termination,” citing this as additional evidence that she was discharged. The commissioner’s representative had this evidence before him, and the evidence does not compel the decision that she quit rather than was discharged.
Next, Mattila comments on findings
by the ULJ. This court does not review
decisions of the ULJ, but only decisions of the commissioner’s
representative. Tuff v. Knitcraft
Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (
Mattila also argues that she was
“harassed” and that this was never addressed by the employer. We interpret this to mean that she is arguing
that even if she quit, she had good cause to do so and should not be
disqualified. Whether an employee had
good reason to quit is a question of law reviewed de novo. Wood v. Menard, Inc., 490 N.W.2d 441,
for reasonableness is applied to the average person and not to the supersensitive. Ferguson v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 311
Mattila contends that the employer harassed her when the administrator called her at home to schedule a feedback session, and when the administrator and manager tried to persuade her to participate in the feedback session that she refused to attend. The record indicates the employer did nothing more than try to persuade the employee to participate in a mandatory feedback session, which, as the commissioner’s representative determined, it had a right to do. We cannot find in the record evidence of improper remarks or other harassment.
Finally, Mattila challenges the process because the taping failed at several hearings, resulting in loss of that evidence. However, she acknowledges that she did in the end receive a complete hearing properly recorded and transcribed. She suggested a court reporter should have taken down the testimony rather than relying on a tape recording. This is a collateral problem that cannot be resolved in this appeal. We note that both sides ended up with a proper record. The financing of a court reporter is an economic issue for the commissioner.
The decision of the commissioner’s representative that Mattila was disqualified from receiving benefits because she quit employment without good reason caused by her employer is affirmed.