This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Mary A. Thill Pheifer,





Health Partners, Inc.,



Department of Employment and Economic Development,




Filed December 20, 2005


Toussaint, Chief Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

Agency File No. 17922 04



Mary A. Thill Pheifer, 9408 Erickson Court North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428 (pro se relator)


Jeffrey George Vigil, Director, Senior Litigation Counsel, Health Partners, Inc., Law Department, 8100 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55425 (respondent Health Partners)


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



            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Minge, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            Relator Mary Thill Pheifer challenges the determination of a senior unemployment review judge (SURJ) that relator is not qualified to receive unemployment benefits because she was discharged for misconduct.  Because the record supports the SURJ’s determination, we affirm.


            The issue before us is whether the record supports the determination that relator was discharged for employment misconduct and was therefore disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she was discharged for violations of various policies of her employer, respondent Health Partners, Inc.  See Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W. 2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002) (issue before supreme court was whether record supported determination that employee who was discharged for violating employer’s policy was discharged for misconduct and thus disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits). 

            Misconduct is defined as “any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct . . . (1) that displays clearly a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee . . . .”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a) (2004).  Whether an employee is not entitled to benefits for reasons of misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law, but whether the employee’s acts constitute misconduct is a question of law that this court reviews de novo.  Schmidgall, 644 N.W. 2d at 804.  This court reviews factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision and does not disturb them if the evidence reasonably tends to sustain them.  Id.  “As a general rule, refusing to abide by an employer’s reasonable policies and requests amounts to disqualifying misconduct.”  Id. 

            Relator worked as a medical office assistant (MOA) for respondent from January 1995 until her discharge in November 2004.  When relator applied for unemployment benefits, a department adjudicator determined that she had been discharged for misconduct and was not entitled to benefits.  Relator appealed, and, following a hearing, an unemployment law judge (ULJ) determined that she had been discharged for misconduct.  Relator again appealed; a senior unemployment review judge (SURJ) conducted a de novo review and independently determined that relator had been discharged for misconduct. 

            The record supports that determination.  Relator’s termination notice, dated November 5, 2004, described six incidents between October 19 and 28.  On October 19, she failed to route one phone message correctly and took a message from a patient whom she should have scheduled for an appointment.  On October 21, relator refused to receive a patient’s call, said she was too busy, and hung up.  Relator testified that “I told [the operator] that I was busy and that I couldn’t take [the patient’s call].”  On October 27, relator inappropriately transferred a phone call to another supervisor without announcing the call; the call should have been transferred to a receptionist.  Relator said it could have happened, but she didn’t recall it.  On October 28, relator hung up on a co-worker; relator testified that “it was like it was another phone call I didn’t need, I was exasperated that morning . . . [a]nd at [that] point, I was frustrated, and it’s like ugggh, and I just hung up.”  Also on October 28, relator told a patient who wanted to speak to a nurse that relator would have the nurse order lab tests and call the patient.  Relator’s supervisor testified that “[the patient] really didn’t need the lab work as of that time.  So it really was not [relator’s] place to state that she would have the nurse order the lab work.  That is, that type of knowledge requires training, such as nurses training.  It is not for [relator] to triage that type of situation.”  Relator said she could not recall the incident but added that, “with the new system, I could go in and I can see certain things in the computer.”  She did not acknowledge that a nurse, not a MOA, should have made the determination.

            These incidents were not relator’s first problems.  She received an eight-and-a-half day suspension in July 2004 for five infractions between May 28 and June 9, including breaching patient confidentiality and inappropriate behavior to co-workers.  She breached patient confidentiality by speaking so loudly that a partially deaf patient overheard confidential information while relator was on the phone.  Relator explained the incident by saying, “I have a strong voice . . . that is my diversity.”  She also testified that, when her immediate supervisor attempted to have her sign a report of a policy infraction, relator “told her I’m not going there. . . .  I became upset with [the supervisor], and I told her I’m not signing it, I’m not reading it, and we’re not going there, we’re not going to that incident.”  Relator also received a two-and-a-half day suspension in May 2004 for failure to complete work assignments because she was several days behind on data entry.

            Respondent had reasonable expectations regarding how patient phone calls were to be handled, how patients were to be treated, how work was to be done, and how employees were to work together.  Relator repeatedly violated those expectations.  Behavior that violates an employer’s reasonable expectations amounts to misconduct.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a).  The record supports the determination that relator committed misconduct.