This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







Mary Zimmermann,





Circus Juventas,



Department of Employment and Economic Development,



Filed August 23, 2005


Willis, Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 20456 03


Kevin M. Lindsey, 1611 Ames Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55106 (for relator)


Allan Shapiro, Shapiro Gordon LLC, Parkdale Plaza Suite 340, 1660 South Highway 100, Minneapolis, MN  55416 (for respondent Circus Juventas)


Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN  55101-1351 (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Relator brings this certiorari appeal from the determination by the senior unemployment-review judge (SURJ) that she is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit her job without good reason caused by her employer.  Because the record reasonably supports the SURJ’s determination, we affirm.


            Relator Mary Zimmermann worked for respondent-employer Circus Juventas from February 17 to November 11, 2003.  Circus Juventas, a nonprofit organization, employed Zimmermann full time as director of development and marketing.  Her supervisors were Dan and Betty Butler, who are the founders of the organization. 

            In October 2003, Zimmermann examined certain of the organization’s financial information while the Butlers were out of town.  She concluded that the Butlers were mishandling the nonprofit’s finances and brought that allegation to the attention of several board members.  A board member investigated, spoke with the organization’s outside bookkeeper, and presented the results of his investigation to the board.

At a meeting on October 28, 2003, the board determined that Zimmermann’s allegations of financial wrongdoing by the Butlers were unfounded.  The board directed board member Scott Nelson to meet with Zimmermann, explain to her the board’s conclusions, and let her know that she could express any further concerns that she had.  The board also suggested that the Butlers meet with Zimmermann to resolve their differences and to move forward with fundraising.

            The morning after the board meeting, Nelson met with Zimmermann, explained the board’s action, and asked if she had any other concerns.  She said that she did not.

The Butlers met with Zimmermann on November 11.  When the Butlers alleged that she had engaged in inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior, however, she refused to continue the meeting without a “facilitator.” When the Butlers continued to voice their concerns, Zimmermann stood up and walked out.  Mr. Butler followed her and asked her to return to the meeting.  He told her that she would be relieved of her duties if she continued walking away.  She continued to walk to her office, with Mr. Butler following and asking her to talk to him.

At her office, Zimmermann phoned her husband and told him that she had been relieved of her duties.  At that point, Mr. Butler told her she had not been relieved of her duties, and if she left, the decision would be hers.  Zimmermann did not return to work the following day; rather, she delivered a letter to Mr. Butler stating that he had terminated her employment and that she was entitled to payment under her contract.  Circus Juventas responded with a letter notifying Zimmermann that her resignation was accepted.  

Zimmermann established a benefit account with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.  A department adjudicator initially determined that she was discharged by her employer.  Circus Juventas appealed that decision, a de novo evidentiary hearing was held, and the unemployment law judge reversed the adjudicator’s decision.  On further appeal, the senior unemployment-review judge determined that Zimmermann was not discharged, but quit without good reason caused by the employer.  This certiorari appeal follows.


The questions on appeal are whether Zimmermann was discharged or quit her employment and if she quit, whether it was with good reason caused by her employer.

“Whether an employee has been discharged or voluntarily quit is a question of fact.”  Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985).  “A discharge from employment occurs 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).  A quit occurs “when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (Supp. 2003).  An employee who quits without good reason caused by the employer is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2003).[1]   We review the factual findings of the senior unemployment-review judge (SURJ)[2] in the light most favorable to his decision and will not disturb the findings as long as there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain them.  Schmidgall v. Filmtec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002).  A decision of a SURJ is accorded “particular deference.”  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).

Zimmermann argues that her employment was terminated by her employer when Mr. Butler told her that if she kept walking, he would relieve her of her duties.  She claims that Brown v. Port of Sunnyside Club, Inc., 304 N.W.2d 877 (Minn. 1981), is indistinguishable and provides controlling precedent for the proposition that Mr. Butler’s words while Zimmermann walked away constituted a discharge from her employment.  In Brown,an employee and employer had a heated discussion, the employee walked away, and the employer stated that the employee “should keep on walking.”  Id. at 879.  But here, although Mr. Butler told Zimmermann that if she kept on walking she would be relieved of her duties, he then followed her to her office, continued to talk to her, and expressly told her she was not discharged.  

This court both views the facts in the light most favorable to the SURJ’s decision and defers to the SURJ’s credibility determinations.  Schmidgall, 644 N.W.2d at 804; Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995).  Here, the SURJ resolved any conflict in the testimony in favor of the employer and specifically credited Mr. Butler’s version of the events, including his testimony that he told Zimmermann in her office that she was not discharged and if she left it would be of her own volition.  Therefore, the record reasonably supports the finding that employment was available for Zimmermann at Circus Juventas and that she chose to leave. 

An employee who quits is not disqualified if he or she had a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.  A good reason is a reason “(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).  Whether an employee has good reason to quit attributable to the employer is a question of law, which we review de novo. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000). The test for reasonableness is objective.  Ferguson v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976).  Neither irreconcilable differences with one’s employer nor frustration and dissatisfaction with one’s working conditions are good reasons to quit.  Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). 

            Zimmermann argues that her quit was justified because the Butlers defamed her during the meeting and because Circus Juventas failed to correct the adverse working condition that she had identified.  Zimmermann’s reliance on alleged defamation at the meeting as the basis for quitting lacks merit.  Mr. Butler’s statement, at a meeting attended by only Zimmermann and the Butlers, that Zimmermann’s actions were “possibly illegal,” does not alone establish defamation.  See Geraci v. Eckankar, 526 N.W.2d 391, 397 (Minn. App. 1995) (setting out required showing of false statement communicated to third party and factors used to distinguish defamatory statement from nonactionable opinion), review denied (Minn. Mar. 14, 1995); see also Stuempges v. Parke, Davis & Co., 297 N.W.2d 252, 255 (Minn. 1980) (setting out elements of defamation).

Zimmermann’s second justification for quitting, that she gave Circus Juventas a reasonable opportunity to correct an adverse working condition, also has no support in the record.  Although Zimmermann does not clearly describe the adverse working condition that she claims to have identified, it appears that she believed that she was treated harshly and unfairly during the November 11 meeting with the Butlers.  As noted above, irreconcilable differences with an employer are not a good reason to quit.  Portz, 397 N.W.2d at 14.  And, as the SURJ points out, even if she were treated unreasonably during the meeting, Zimmermann did not complain to the board of directors or allow the board an opportunity to investigate and take action on her complaint before she quit.  Finally, Zimmermann’s argument that her quit was justified appears to be premised on the proposition that she had the right to set the terms under which she would discuss with her supervisors matters relating to the employer’s business, a proposition for which she cites no legal authority. 

The record reasonably supports the SURJ’s finding that Zimmermann quit without good reason caused by her employer.


[1] 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).

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