This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







Carole L. Anderson,





Cargill, Inc.,



Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,




Filed June 7, 2005


Poritsky, Judge*



Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 4443 04



Carole L. Anderson, 8675 Marigold Circle, #303, Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (pro se relator)


Charles F. Knapp, Daniel G. Prokott, Faegre & Benson, LLP, 2200 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Cargill, Inc.)


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; Schumacher, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            The commissioner’s representative determined that pro se relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit employment without good reason attributable to her employer.  Relator (1) challenges a number of findings by the commissioner’s representative and (2) argues that she showed good reason to quit her job.  We affirm. 


            Respondent Cargill, Inc. hired relator Carole Anderson as a data-entry specialist in January 2002.[1]  When Anderson interviewed for the position, she understood it to be an entry-level position and accepted the job because she was told that “there would be many opportunities . . . to advance.”  During the course of Anderson’s employment, her job responsibilities grew, and her workload increased significantly in early 2003.  Despite this, Anderson did not work much more than 40 hours per week.  As she explained, “[T]he additional work required [me] to figure out a way to get it done faster, and I was able to do that through various reports.”

Uncertain about her exact job responsibilities, Anderson requested a meeting with her manager, John McGreavey, in early 2003.  Anderson held a number of meetings with McGreavey to discuss her job description.  During those discussions, McGreavey “tried to make it clear that [Anderson’s] responsibilities were as per the job [description] and that [the] primary function of her role was trade entry.”  Dissatisfied with the meetings, Anderson met with Roberta Blackwood, a human-resources manager, to continue discussions about her job description.  Then, at a December department meeting, McGreavey announced that Anderson and others would no longer report to him but to the head of the trade-entry group.  On December 22, 2003, Anderson met with both McGreavey and Blackwood “to discuss the job description some more.”  According to Blackwood, Anderson was told, “[Y]ou need to make a choice to stay and work and finish this job description and stay with us, or you need to make a decision.”  In response, Anderson allegedly said, “[Y]ou’re right, I’m going to make a decision, I quit, happy holidays.”  Anderson decided to quit because she felt that she was being “demoted.”  When asked why she quit, Anderson responded:

In a short statement, I was never really certain what my responsibilities were.  They kept increasing.  I was never recognized for what I had accomplished and what I was doing, and finally, the final job description that I received was, after two years or two-and-a-half years actually, was actually a demotion.


In Anderson’s mind, the position was considered a demotion because she no longer reported to John McGreavey but to another person “one step further down from management.”[2] 

            Anderson applied for unemployment benefits “out of curiosity while searching for [other] employment.”  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development initially determined that Anderson was not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  An unemployment-law judge reversed that determination, concluding that Anderson quit and that she “may have had excellent reasons for resigning, but those reasons were her own.”  On appeal, the commissioner’s representative affirmed, concluding that Anderson quit her employment with Cargill and that she did not do so for a good reason caused by the employer.  Some months later, Anderson received a notice-of-revenue-recapture claim, reflecting an outstanding unemployment-insurance overpayment of $4,732.  This appeal follows.


This court reviews the findings of the commissioner’s representative rather than those of the unemployment-law judge.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  The standard of review in economic-security cases is narrow.  Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383 (Minn. 1992).  The factual findings of the commissioner’s representative are “viewed in the light most favorable to the decision, and if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed.”  White v. Metro. Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).  Whether a person quit his or her job is a question of fact.  Shanahan v. Dist. Mem’l Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 896 (Minn. App. 1993).  But whether an applicant is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits is a question of law.  Markel, 479 N.W.2d at 384.  On questions of law, this court is not bound by the commissioner’s conclusions, but exercises its own independent judgment.  Id.

1.         Factual Findings of the Commissioner’s Representative

            Anderson challenges a number of the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative.  As we have noted, those findings are “viewed in the light most favorable to the decision, and if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed.”  White, 332 N.W.2d at 26. 

            Anderson first challenges the finding that she “took on job responsibilities outside of what was required by her job description.”  Anderson testified that her job responsibilities “kept increasing.”  Specifically, Anderson’s complaint on this issue is that the finding is wrong because it implies that she willingly took on extra responsibilities, when, in her view, those responsibilities were not in her job description but were thrust upon her, and she did not receive credit for them.  But McGreavey testified that he “tried to make it clear that her responsibilities were as per the job description spec and that her primary function of her role was trade entry.”  McGreavey’s testimony is sufficient to support a finding that whatever extra responsibilities Anderson took on, she took on willingly. Because there is evidence reasonably tending to support the finding of the commissioner’s representative, we will not disturb that finding.

            Anderson next claims that the job description presented at the last meeting on December 22 was her final job description, in contrast to the commissioner’s finding that “[t]he human resources manager believed that she and Anderson were very near agreement in the terms of the job description when Anderson resigned.”  But the human-resources manager testified that at the December 22 meeting, “We were very, very close to having an agreement, and I disagree wholeheartedly that . . . we had great differences on what the job required and what had to be done.”  Because there is evidence reasonably tending to support this finding, we will not disturb it.

            Anderson also disputes the commissioner’s finding that although “Anderson found McGreavey’s demeanor and speech abusive and humiliating[;] [s]he did not complain about these issues to McGreavey or to others.”  But Laura Snodgrass, a colleague of Anderson at work, testified that Anderson did complain to her about McGreavey’s behavior.  Even so, Anderson testified that she would have preferred to continue working for McGreavey rather than taking a perceived demotion.  Therefore, even if Anderson did complain about McGreavey’s behavior, the fact that she complained would not support a finding that Anderson quit for good cause attributable to Cargill.  

            Anderson highlights a statement made by McGreavey at the hearing before the ULJ and claims that the commissioner’s representative “totally disregarded” the statement.  But the commissioner’s representative need not comment on every piece of testimony offered at the ULJ’s hearing and remains in the best position to weigh evidence in order to reach a decision.  See Tuff, 526 N.W.2d at 51 (noting that when witness credibility and conflicting evidence are at issue, this court defers to the ability of the commissioner’s representative to weigh evidence and make credibility determinations).  Because we do not weigh evidence on review, we defer to the ability of the commissioner’s representative to consider the testimony presented.  Id.   

            Finally, without argument, Anderson refers us to her submission to the commissioner’s representative and certain portions of the ULJ’s hearing transcript to further challenge the commissioner’s representative’s decision.  Having reviewed those documents, we again conclude that there is no basis to disturb the factual findings of the commissioner’s representative. 

B.        Good Reason to Quit

            It is undisputed that Anderson voluntarily quit.  Thus, the ultimate issue here is whether Anderson met her burden of proving that her resignation was for good cause attributable to Cargill.  See Marz v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 290 (Minn. 1977) (explaining that employee has burden of proving that resignation was for good cause attributable to employer). 

            In general, “[a]n applicant who quit[s] employment shall be [disqualified from] all unemployment benefits.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2003).[3]  But an employee who quits her employment may qualify to receive unemployment benefits if she “quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2003).  A good reason caused by the employer is one “(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; and (2) that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a) (Supp. 2003).   

Anderson testified before the ULJ that she quit because she was unsure about her job responsibilities and was not recognized for her accomplishments.  But “[t]he phrase ‘good cause attributable to the employer’ does not encompass situations where an employee experiences irreconcilable differences with others at work or where the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with [her] working conditions.”  Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986).

Anderson also appears to dispute the entire process leading to the conclusion that she is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  But the record reflects that Anderson’s decision to quit was primarily based on her own perception that she had been demoted.  She testified:

Q:        . . . Why did the [December 22] meeting come about?


A:        It was supposed to . . . discuss the job description some more. 


                        Q:        Okay.  And so did you, in fact, do that at the meeting?


A:        Yes, we did.


                        Q:        Okay.  And so at what point did you decided to leave?


A:        I decided to leave when I knew that I was [being] demoted, nothing was going to change.  . . .


(Emphasis added.)  She then explained that she was demoted because she would report to someone “one step further down from management.”

            An average, reasonable worker would not quit under these circumstances.  The record reflects that both McGreavey and Blackwood were constantly working with Anderson to revise her job description.  When Anderson became unhappy with that process, she decided to quit.  As we have noted, frustration and dissatisfaction with working conditions does not constitute “good cause attributable to the employer”.  Id.

Anderson’s decision to quit appears to have ultimately been prompted by her belief that reporting to another employee “one step further down from management” was a demotion.  To demote means to “lower . . . in rank, position, or pay.”  Black’s Law Dictionary 444 (7th ed. 1999).  But Anderson testified that neither her position nor pay altered in response to the reporting change.  A good reason to quit must be one that is real and not imaginary.  Cook v. Playworks, 541 N.W.2d 366, 368 (Minn. App. 1996); see also Ferguson v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976) (noting that “circumstances [compelling] the decision to leave employment must be real, not imaginary, substantial not trifling, and reasonable, not whimsical; there must be some compulsion produced by extraneous and necessitous circumstances.”) (quotation omitted).  Under the circumstances, the change in the reporting structure was clearly not a demotion, and Anderson did not have a good reason to quit caused by Cargill. 


* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Cargill uses the term “trade entry physical” to describe the position.  A letter from Cargill’s human-resources department refers to Anderson’s position as “assistant accountant.”  Anderson testified, “I was never given that title formally.”

[2] At the hearing, Anderson also complained that it was “very difficult to work with” McGreavey and that his tone towards her was “abusive” and “very mean.”  Despite this, she agreed that she would have rather continued working for McGreavey than to take the perceived demotion by reporting to someone in a lower management level.

[3]  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).