This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Nancy L. Hendrickson,


American Express Financial Planning,

Department of Employment and Economic Development,


Filed August 16, 2005


Peterson, Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 1152004


Nancy L. Hendrickson, 12705 Edgewood Street, #112, Becker, MN 55308 (pro se relator)


Duane H. Olson, American Express Financial Planning, PO Box 396, St. Michael, MN  55376-0396 (respondent American Express Financial Planning)


Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E2000, St. Paul, MN  55101-1351 (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)


            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Pro se relator Nancy L. Hendrickson challenges a decision by a senior unemployment review judge[1] determining that she quit her job with respondent American Express Financial Planning (Financial Planning) without good reason caused by her employer and that she is therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Because the evidence reasonably supports the decision of the review judge, we affirm.


            In May 2003, relator was employed by a temporary-employment service, Midwest Staffing, and assigned to part-time work for respondent Financial Planning as a general office worker.  When relator accepted the temporary assignment, she agreed to work for $9 per hour.  Financial Planning’s owner, Duane Olson, agreed to hire relator as a permanent employee at the end of her assignment and give her a wage increase if she met his performance requirements.  Relator agrees that no specific amount was quoted, but claims that she understood Olson to promise that he would pay her the gross amount that Financial Planning was paying to Midwest Staffing for her services.

            At some point during her assignment, relator came upon a document in the fax machine that indicated that Financial Planning was paying Midwest Staffing $13.95 per hour for her services.  Relator claims that sometime in August 2003, shortly before the end of her assignment, Olson told her that he planned to hire her on a permanent basis and pay her what he was paying Midwest Staffing, or somewhere around $13 per hour.  Olson acknowledges that the two discussed relator’s wages, but denies that he promised to pay relator $13 per hour or the gross amount he had been paying to Midwest Staffing; rather, Olson claims that he promised to increase relator’s wages from the $9 per hour that she netted from Midwest Staffing.  By the end of that day, Olson informed relator that she would be paid $10 per hour; relator told Olson that was not enough and that she would have to think about it.

Relator worked directly for Financial Planning from August 19 to August 29, 2003, when she quit.  Although Olson offered relator additional hours per week and informed her of the possibility of future wage increases, she claimed that was not what she had been promised, that $10 per hour was not enough, and that she could not afford daycare on that amount.


            Our review of unemployment-insurance cases is narrow and limited to determining whether the record reasonably supports the decision of the senior unemployment review judge.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995); Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383-84 (Minn. 1992).  We must consider the review judge’s findings in a light most favorable to the decision, and we defer to credibility determinations made by the review judge.  Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996) (review of findings); Jenson v. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 617 N.W.2d 627, 631 (Minn. App. 2000) (deference to credibility determinations), review denied (Minn. Dec. 20, 2000).  Whether an employee has good reason to quit presents a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Kehoe v. Minn. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 890 (Minn. App. 1997); Biegner v. Bloomington Chrysler/Plymouth, Inc., 426 N.W.2d 483, 485 (Minn. App. 1988).

            An employee who quits a job is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless the employee quits “because of a good reason caused by the employer.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2003).  A good reason caused by an employer is defined as a significant reason directly related to the employment for which the employer is responsible and that would “compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed” rather than remain employed.  Id., subd. 3(a)(1)-(2) (Supp. 2003).  “A substantial adverse change in the wages, hours, or other terms of employment by the employer shall be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting[.]”  Id., subd. 3(c).

            When an employer breaches a term of an employment agreement, an employee may be deemed to have good reason to quit.  See, e.g., Hayes v. K-Mart Corp., 665 N.W.2d 550, 552-53 (Minn. App. 2003) (employer breached promise to give employee raise), review denied (Minn. Sept. 24, 2003); Helmin v. Griswold Ribbon & Typewriter, 345 N.W.2d 257, 261-62 (Minn. App. 1984) (employer failed to notify employee of cancellation of company’s health-insurance policy), review denied (Minn. June 12, 1984).  This rule applies even when the agreement is oral.  See Krantz v. Loxtercamp Transp., Inc., 410 N.W.2d 24, 27 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that employer’s breach of oral promise that employee would not have to work weekends constitutes good cause for employee to quit); Baker v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops No. 154, 394 N.W.2d 564, 566 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that employer’s violation of “understanding” that employee would not have to work nights gave employee good cause to quit).

            The evidence reasonably supports the review judge’s determination that a promise was made to increase relator’s wages at the end of her temporary assignment, but that a specific amount was not discussed.  The review judge found that there was conflicting testimony from relator and Olson regarding the promised rate of hourly pay: relator claimed that Olson promised to increase her pay to $13 per hour, while Olson claimed that he merely promised to increase her pay from the amount that she received from Midwest Staffing, which he did when he offered her an increase from $9 to $10 per hour.  When there is conflicting evidence, we must defer to the review judge on issues of credibility.  Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995).

We conclude that relator’s misunderstanding about the amount of her raise does not constitute good reason caused by her employer to quit.  Rather, relator chose to quit her job because her wage increase was not as large as she had hoped.  Although this may have provided her with a reason to look for other employment, we cannot conclude that it provided her with good reason caused by her employer to quit.  As the review judge stated, while relator’s “dissatisfaction with her hourly rate of pay might have prodded her to seek other employment while she continued working, the evidence does not lead us to conclude that the average reasonable worker would quit and join the ranks of the unemployed under similar circumstances.”  We therefore affirm the decision of the review judge.


[1]  For unemployment decisions made on or after August 1, 2004, the decision-maker formerly known as the commissioner’s representative is referred to as a “senior unemployment review judge.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 2 (2004); 2004 Minn. Laws ch. 183, § 71.