This opinion will be unpublished and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
Happyland Tree Farms, Inc.,
Department of Employment
and Economic Development,
Filed August 16, 2005
Department of Employment
and Economic Development
File No. 14361 04
D. Sherwood McKinnis, Lindberg
& McKinnis, P.A.,
Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-1351 (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In challenging the decision of the senior unemployment law judge disqualifying relator from receiving unemployment benefits because he quit without a good reason caused by his employer, relator contends that the findings were not supported by the record. Because the record supports the findings, we affirm.
Relator Lawrence Klingsheim worked for respondent Happyland Tree Farms (Happyland) from April 2001 to August 10, 2004, when he voluntarily quit his job. While employed with Happyland, relator was sent to job sites where he worked with a crew to pull trees out of the ground and package them for delivery to landscapers, wholesalers, and retailers. Relator subsequently applied for unemployment benefits, but the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development determined that relator was disqualified from receiving benefits. Relator appealed to the unemployment law judge, who conducted an evidentiary hearing.
At the hearing, relator testified that he quit because of a “culmination of different things that have occurred throughout [his] years of employment,” but his main reason for quitting was “[t]hreats of physical harm.” Relator testified that two coworkers, Mr. Herron and Mr. Smith, made regular threats. Relator testified that Herron punched, kicked, and swore at relator without provocation on May 8, 2004. Relator alleged that he reported the incident to his supervisor, Leroy Bacon.
Relator further testified that coworkers made physical threats about every other day following the May 8 incident, but relator admits not reporting any threats to Bacon. Relator explained that he did not report the threats because he feared further retaliation from coworkers. Relator voluntarily quit on August 10, 2004, because that day another coworker informed appellant “to watch [his] back” because it was well known within the crew that unless appellant quit or was fired, “the incidents would get more serious in nature and would occur more often until [relator] either got fired or quit.” Relator admits that he did not tell Bacon about the coworker’s comment.
Additionally, relator alleged that he complained to Bacon about the driver and other crew members in the main transport vehicle using alcohol and drugs and about Happyland’s alleged improper garnishing of his wages.
Bacon testified that he received one
complaint that the drivers of the vehicle were drinking on the way home from a
work trip to
Bacon further testified that relator never reported being threatened by Herron or Smith. Bacon was also unaware that a crew member told relator on August 10, 2004, that the crew wanted relator to quit or be fired. Bacon acknowledged that relator told him that relator wanted Happyland to stop garnishing his checks. Bacon replied that the company was under a court order to garnish his payments and that it could not simply stop because relator wanted it to. Ken Olson, Happyland CEO, testified that relator had never complained to him about being harassed by the crew members or made any other complaints.
Following the hearing, the unemployment law judge affirmed relator’s disqualification. Relator appealed to the senior unemployment law judge. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 2a (2004), the senior unemployment law judge declined to conduct further proceedings and ordered that the unemployment law judge’s findings of fact and decision be adopted as the final findings of fact and decision of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Relator petitioned for writ of certiorari to this court.
Appellate courts review the findings
of the senior unemployment review judge rather than those of the unemployment
law judge. Tuff v.
Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (
An applicant who quits
employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless, among other
exceptions, the employee quits for a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1)
(Supp. 2003). Under relevant
(a) A good reason caused by the employer for quitting 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.
(b) If an applicant was subjected to adverse working conditions by the employer, the applicant must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions before that may be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3 (Supp. 2003).
It is well settled that good cause
to quit may be established if the employee has been subjected to harassment on
the job and can show that he gave the employer notice of the harassment and an
opportunity to correct the problem. Tru-Stone Corp. v. Gutzkow, 400 N.W.2d
836, 838–39 (
The unemployment law judge concluded that relator did not quit for a good reason caused by the employer. While the judge found that relator quit on August 10, 2004, because of threats of physical harm and that relator was harassed by coworkers, the judge found that relator never complained to his supervisor or management about the harassment. Thus, the judge found that Happyland was not given a reasonable opportunity to correct relator’s working conditions. Additionally, the judge concluded that Happyland Tree Farms acted properly in dealing with relator’s wage garnishment.
Relator challenges the findings, arguing that (1) he made three complaints to Bacon about drivers operating the van while under the influence of drugs and alcohol; (2) although he made an improper remark about Herron on May 8, 2004, Herron attacked him for making the remark and he reported the attack to Bacon; (3) he did not report threats of physical violence after the incident with Herron because he believed that complaining would incite further harassment by coworkers; (4) Happyland did not act in good faith with regard to his garnishments; and (5) Olson told him that Olson did not want to hear about any complaints.
Here, there is evidence in the
record which reasonably tends to sustain the findings. Where the parties presented conflicting
evidence on the record, we defer to the senior unemployment review judge’s
ability to weigh the evidence. See Whitehead
v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (
legislature substituted the term “senior unemployment review judge” for
representative of the commissioner. 2004
 The revisor of statutes 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).