This opinion will be unpublished and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
CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco (CORP),
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed May 17, 2005
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco, 800 LaSalle Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (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 55101-1351 (for respondent Commissioner)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
In this certiorari appeal, relator Terry E. Carlson challenges the determination of the commissioner's representative that Carlson was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. The commissioner's representative found Carlson voluntarily quit her employment with respondent CenterPoint Energy Minnegasco (CORP) without good reason caused by CenterPoint. We reverse.
Carlson began working for CenterPoint in 1982. On March 12, 2004, her position as an accounts payable invoice clerk was eliminated. It is uncontested that in the afternoon of March 12, Carlson was offered a position in the cashiering department and told she must decide that day whether she was going to accept the position.
Joanie Lundeen, a human resources representative for CenterPoint, testified that when she told Carlson she needed an answer, Carlson "was unable to give a response" but left her key card and told Lundeen to "do what [she] needed to do." Carlson testified that "after working for a company for 21 and a half years, it was just so extremely overwhelming and I could not speak, and I said that I needed to leave the building. I was just overwhelmed. I needed time to digest all this." Carlson also testified she had questions about the new position that she needed answered before accepting the job but denied that she ever declined the cashier position.
Approximately 10 days later, Carlson filed for unemployment benefits. It was initially determined that she was eligible to receive benefits. CenterPoint appealed the decision, and the unemployment law judge determined that Carlson had quit without good reason caused by CenterPoint and denied Carlson benefits; the commissioner's representative affirmed.
Generally, the question of whether an employee quit or was discharged is a question of fact. Souder v. Ziegler, 424 N.W.2d 834, 835 (Minn. App. 1988); Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985). We review findings of fact in the light most favorable to the commissioner's decision and will not disturb them if there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain them. Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). But we need not defer to the commissioner's representative's ultimate determination that an employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits, which is a question of law reviewed de novo by this court. Id.
An employee who quits his or her employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless one of the statutory exceptions applies. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2003). But an employee who is discharged from employment shall receive unemployment benefits unless he or she is engaged in employment misconduct. Id., subd. 4. "A quit from employment occurs when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee's." Id., subd. 2(a). A discharge occurs when the employer's words or actions would lead a reasonable employee to believe that he or she is no longer allowed to work for the employer in any capacity or when the employee is laid off because of a lack of work. Id., subd. 5.
Here, Carlson never stated she would not accept the cashier position. Rather, the record shows that Carlson could not make an immediate decision whether she would accept the position and that when CenterPoint insisted she do so, Carlson walked out of the building and told CenterPoint "to do what [it] needed to do." The record does not support a conclusion that Carlson chose to end her employment. Rather, the only plausible interpretation of Carlson's statement is that if CenterPoint would not allow Carlson a minimal amount of time to consider the offer, then Carlson was leaving the decision to CenterPoint whether to retract its offer, which is what CenterPoint did.
Under these circumstances, we cannot conclude that Carlson chose to quit. Rather, we conclude that Carlson's position as an accounting clerk had been eliminated, CenterPoint did not continue to offer her employment, and therefore Carlson was discharged. See id. (stating layoff is considered discharge). There has never been any allegation that Carlson committed misconduct, and therefore she is eligible to receive unemployment benefits. See id., subd. 4 (stating employee who is discharged for reasons other than employment misconduct is eligible to receive benefits). Because we conclude that Carlson is eligible to receive unemployment benefits, we do not address her argument that she did not receive a fair hearing.