This opinion will be unpublished and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
Asia T. Smith,
ReliaStar Life Insurance Company,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 12839 04
ReliaStar Life Insurance Company,
Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic
Development, Suite E200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St.
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
Relator challenges the decision by the senior unemployment review judge that she was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she was discharged for misconduct. Because relator admitted that she signed a letter that falsely indicated that she was a supervisor and this letter was sent to an outside party, we affirm.
Relator Asia T.
Smith worked as a billing coordinator for ReliaStar Life Insurance Company from
February 16, 2001, until July 21, 2004. A
coworker, who had been a friend of the relator’s for three and a half years, asked
relator to sign a letter as Supervisor of ReliaStar’s Employee Benefits,
stating that the coworker’s position with ReliaStar was being eliminated and
that the coworker was being offered another position with the employer in
Relator filed for unemployment benefits and on August 9, 2004, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development determined that relator was disqualified because of misconduct. On September 7, 2004, an unemployment law judge (ULJ) held a telephone hearing at which relator and the manager of ReliaStar’s billing department testified. Relator testified that she did not read the letter before she signed it and denied signing the letter on the employer’s letterhead. Relator’s supervisor testified that she had the original letter, which relator signed in blue ink and was on ReliaStar’s letterhead.
The ULJ found that
relator signed a letter on company letterhead.
The letter that relator signed was inaccurate because it stated that
relator was the coworker’s supervisor, that the coworker’s position in
On certiorari appeal,
we accord particular deference to the decision of the senior unemployment
review judge. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (
An employee who is
discharged for misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment
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.
Inefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, a single incident that does not have a significant adverse impact on the employer, conduct an average reasonable employee would have engaged in under the circumstances, poor performance because of inability or incapacity, good faith errors in judgment if judgment was required, or absence because of illness or injury with proper notice to the employer . . . .
Relator committed a serious violation of the employer’s standards of behavior by signing a fraudulent letter which misstated relator’s title and implied that relator was a coworker’s supervisor. See Baron v. Lens Crafters, Inc., 514 N.W.2d 305, 307-08 (Minn. App. 1994) (“dishonesty that is connected with employment may constitute misconduct”). Relator admits that she signed the letter and that the conduct was inappropriate. But she argues that this was a single act of misconduct, which did not have a significant adverse impact on the employer because the letter was not sent to employer’s clients, did not become public knowledge, and did not affect the employer’s revenue.
In fact, the
fraudulent letter was sent to a third party and demonstrates relator’s lack of
concern for her employer’s interests.
Moreover, the unemployment law judge found that the letter was sent on
company letterhead. This adversely affects
the ability of the employer to control its communications and portrays a false
image of the employer. Although relator
testified that the letter was not on company letterhead, the ULJ credited the
testimony of relator’s supervisor in finding that the letter relator signed was
on company letterhead, and such credibility assessments are entitled to
deference by appellate courts. See Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care,
Inc.,529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
court applies the statute in effect at the time of the employee’s
discharge. Brown v. Nat’l Am. Univ., 686 N.W.2d 329, 332 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (
The legislature substituted the term “senior unemployment review judge” for the
commissioner’s representative. 2004
 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 the subsection to Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13b).