This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Jeffrey E. Studley,





Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,



Filed ­­­August 9, 2005


Dietzen, Judge


Department of Employment & Economic Development

Agency File No. 4025 04


Jeffrey E. Studley, 711 Second Avenue Southwest, Austin, MN 55912 (relator pro se)


Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Relator, who was laid off from his employment as a production supervisor, challenges the decision of a senior unemployment review judge determining that he was not eligible for additional trade readjustment allowance benefits because he failed to enroll in a federally approved training course by the statutory deadline.  Relator argues that he enrolled through the state dislocated worker program before the deadline.  Because 19 U.S.C. § 2293 (2000) unambiguously states that an applicant must file a timely application to enroll in a federally approved training program, which is separate and distinct from state dislocated worker training, we affirm.



            Relator Jeffrey Studley was laid off from his employment with Viracon, Inc. (Viracon), on May 23, 2001.  The U.S. Department of Labor certified laid-off workers of Viracon as eligible for trade readjustment allowance (TRA) benefits, effective May 17, 2002, under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA) established by the Trade Act of 1974, 19 U.S.C. §§ 2271-2298 (2000).  The TAA provides payment of TRA benefits administered through state unemployment compensation departments to help workers adversely affected by lack of work due to import competition.  Id. §§ 2291, 2311 (2000).

On July 23, 2002, respondent Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development notified relator by letter that Viracon had been certified as eligible for TRA benefits.  The letter stated that to receive additional weekly TRA benefits after basic TRA benefits had expired, relator was required to enroll in a full-time TAA-approved training course.  The letter explained that “training or waiver of training must be approved by a Trade Act Representative to receive any Trade Act cash benefits.  Approval of training under Trade Act is separate from approval of training under the Dislocated Worker program.”  (Emphasis added).

            In November 2002, relator discussed the state dislocated worker training with an Owatonna workforce development counselor.  See Minn. Stat. § 116L.17 (2004) (outlining unemployment benefits and programs available to eligible dislocated workers through the state dislocated worker program).  The counselor approved a chemistry course at Riverland Community College through the state dislocated worker program.  But the course was not approved through the TAA.  The course was taught January through May 2003.

            The 210-day period to apply for a TAA training program to receive additional TRA benefits began on Viracon’s published date of certification, May 17, 2002,[1] and ended in December 2002.  But relator did not apply for additional TRA benefits until May 22, 2003, shortly before his basic TRA benefits were about to expire on May 24, 2003.  On January 6, 2004, respondent sent relator a notice indicating that he was not eligible for additional TRA benefits because he filed his application after the December 2002 deadline.  Respondent sent relator another notice on January 26, 2004, indicating that he had also exhausted basic TRA benefits.

Relator faxed a notice to respondent on January 26, 2004, appealing both his ineligibility for additional TRA benefits and the exhaustion of basic TRA.  Relator participated in a telephone hearing before an unemployment law judge in March 2004.  The unemployment law judge affirmed the initial determination of ineligibility.  Relator again appealed, and a senior unemployment review judge (SURJ) affirmed the denial of benefits, determining that relator’s enrollment in an approved training course through the dislocated worker program was not the same as an approved TAA training program.  Further, the SURJ determined that relator’s May 22, 2003 application for additional TAA benefits was too late to meet the 210-day deadline, which expired in December 2002.  Relator petitions for certiorari review.



A state agency’s decision regarding an applicant’s entitlement to TRA benefits is “subject to review in the same manner and to the same extent as determinations under the applicable State law and only in that manner and to that extent.”  19 U.S.C. § 2311(d) (2000).  Appellate courts review the findings of the senior unemployment review judge rather than those of the unemployment law judge.[2]  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  This court reviews the senior unemployment review judge’s factual findings to determine only if the record contains evidence reasonably tending to sustain the findings.  Talberg v. Comm’r of Econ. Sec., 370 N.W.2d 686, 688 (Minn. App. 1985).  But this court exercises its independent judgment over the legal conclusions.  Id.  Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998).  “When interpreting a statute, [this court] first look[s] to see whether the statute’s language, on its face, is clear or ambiguous.”  Am. Family Ins. Group v. Schroedl, 616 N.W.2d 273, 277 (Minn. 2000). 

The TAA provides that workers may receive additional TRA benefits once the eligibility for basic benefits has lapsed if they “complete training approved . . . under . . . this title . . . in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary.”  19 U.S.C. § 2293(a)(3) (2000).  Payments may be made for up to 52 additional weeks so long as the unemployed worker is continuously enrolled in the training program.  Id.  But application for such additional benefits is limited by the following provision:

(b) Limitations on additional payments for training periods

            A trade readjustment allowance may not be paid for an additional week specified in subsection (a)(3) of this section if the adversely affected worker who would receive such allowance did not make a bona fide application to a training program approved by the Secretary under section 2296 of this title within 210 days after the date of the worker’s first certification of eligibility to apply for adjustment assistance issued by the Secretary, or, if later, within 210 days after the date of the worker’s total or partial separation referred to in section 2291(a)(1) of this title.


Id. § 2293(b) (2000) (emphasis added).


            Relator contends that because a dislocated worker program counselor approved him for a chemistry course in November 2002, the course should suffice for purposes of the TAA requirement because he enrolled before the December 2002 deadline.  But the statutory language is unambiguous that the training program must be an approved TAA program.  See Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2004) (text of unambiguous statutes must control).  Relator acknowledges that he was advised by the Owatonna workforce development to enroll in the chemistry course through the state dislocated worker program.  Courses approved under the state dislocated worker program, however, are separate and distinct from TAA courses.  See Minn. Stat. § 116L.17 (2004).  The notification letter for TRA benefits sent to relator clearly stated that eligibility for additional benefits required full-time enrollment in a TAA approved training course and that approval of training under Trade Act is separate from approval of training under the state dislocated worker program.  Thus, the letter put relator on notice that a chemistry course was not a valid substitute for a TAA training program.  Because the TAA clearly states that an applicant for additional TRA benefits must apply to enroll in a training program within 210 days of the latter of the qualifying separation date or certification date, and relator failed to apply until May 2003, some five months after the 210-day period expired,[3] relator is not eligible for the additional benefits.

The SURJ did not err by upholding the ULJ’s determination that relator is not eligible for additional TRA benefits.


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

[1] The record contains several discrepancies in the true published certification date.  Respondent’s January 6, 2004 notice to relator stated that Viracon’s published certification date was May 12, 2002.  A handwritten correction to the original notice stated that the published certification date was June 11, 2002.  The July 23, 2002 notification letter to relator, the SURJ’s decision, and respondent’s brief indicated that the correct date was May 17, 2002.  Nonetheless, our analysis remains the same no matter which date is correct.

[2] The legislature substituted the term “senior unemployment review judge” for representative of the commissioner.  2004 Minn. Laws ch. 183, § 71.

[3] Relator’s May 2003 application is late whether the true eligibility period expired in December 2002 or January 2003.