This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Bonnie J. Jeffrey,
Walch & Walch,
Employment and Economic Development,
Filed January 10, 2006
Department of Employment and
Agency File No. 4144 04
Weiss, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 166 East 4th Street, Suite 200, St.
Paul, MN 55101
Walch, Inc., 230 Coronado Drive,
Punta Gorda, FL
Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332
Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent department)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Hudson,
Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
the senior unemployment review judge’s (SURJ) determination that she quit her
employment without good reason caused by her employer and was disqualified from
receiving unemployment benefits. Because
we conclude that the decision of the SURJ was reasonably supported by the
record, we affirm.
Relator Bonnie J.
Jeffrey worked for respondent Walch & Walch, Inc. from October 1994 until
January 31, 2004 as a cosmetologist/hairstylist at the Apache
Plaza mall in St. Anthony, Minnesota. She worked on a straight commission basis. Respondent also operated beauty salons in Brooklyn Center and Fridley. The Brooklyn Center
salon is located approximately six miles from the Apache
Plaza mall and is a ten minute commute;
the Fridley salon is located more than six miles
away, and is a 15 minute commute from Apache Plaza. In terms of transit, both locations can be
reached by use of the highway, but the drive to Brooklyn Center can also be made over public
When the Apache Plaza mall was scheduled
to be demolished in early 2004, respondent decided to close its Apache Plaza
location as of January 31, 2004, and so informed its employees, including
relator. In September 2003, respondent’s
owner Dennis Walch came to the Apache
Plaza salon and discussed
the topic of closing with relator. At
that time, relator stated that she did not know what she intended to do.
asked some of her customers whether they would be willing to travel to a
different salon. They indicated that
they would not be willing to travel far to continue to use her services. Relator testified that her customers are
primarily elderly who reside in the vicinity of the Apache Plaza
salon; and that she wanted to continue working with her existing customers. Based on those discussions, relator believed
that her customers would not follow her to either the Fridley
or Brooklyn Center
salons. Relator stated that she looked
for work at other salons in the area but was unable to find any openings.
January 2004, Dennis Walch contacted relator by telephone to offer her
continuing employment. There is a
dispute in the testimony as to whether Walch offered her continuing employment
at the Fridley or Brooklyn Center salons. But regardless of the location, relator declined
because she concluded that her customers would not travel that far. Walch predicted that by moving to the Fridley or Brooklyn
Center salon, relator would lose some customers but
gain other customers. Relator responded that
she would lose all of her customers, and that she intended to take a
sabbatical. Relator admitted that, as of
the date of the telephone conversation, she had not visited either the Fridley or the Brooklyn
Center salons or explored the availability of new
customers at those salons. Relator
voluntarily quit her employment on January 31, 2004.
relator’s claim for unemployment benefits was denied by an adjudicator on the
ground that she had refused suitable work, she appealed to an unemployment law
judge (ULJ). At the hearing, Walch
claimed that relator would have been offered a guaranteed wage but for her lack
of expressed interest in transferring.
But that offer was not communicated to relator.
ULJ affirmed the adjudicator’s decision to deny unemployment benefits. He found that relator had been offered the
opportunity to move to the Brooklyn Center
location and that she had refused based on a purely speculative claim that
there would not be sufficient business at the new location to replace the
customers she might lose. She appealed
to the SURJ
who affirmed the ULJ’s decision. This
court granted relator’s request to remand the case based on concerns about the
process that had been used in reaching the final agency decision. Jeffrey
v. Walch & Walch, Inc., No. A04-1377 (Minn. App. Feb. 8, 2005) (order op.) The SURJ found that relator had been offered
a transfer option to the Brooklyn
Center location, but that she would have quit
regardless of the offered location. Relator
sought certiorari review.
remand, the SURJ concluded that relator was offered employment at the Fridley salon, and not the Brooklyn Center salon. The SURJ concluded that regardless of the
salon relator was offered, she would have quit on January 31, 2004. She “only wanted to work on her exact same
clientele.” The SURJ based this
conclusion on the fact that relator never visited or worked out of either the
Fridley or Brooklyn Center locations before quitting, together with the other
evidence that relator “only wanted to work on her exact same clientele.” Although relator testified that she would
have been willing to consider working at a new location if she had received a
guaranteed wage, she did not give Walch the opportunity to go into the details
of her transfer offer. This certiorari
D E C I S I O N
raised two issues on appeal. First, relator
contends that she had good cause to refuse Walch’s offer of continuing employment
at the Fridley salon
because it would have resulted in a substantial decrease in pay due to the loss
of her established customers. Therefore,
relator claims she is entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.
reviewing a decision on unemployment benefits, this court applies a narrow
standard of review. Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383 (Minn. 1992). The findings are reviewed in the light most
favorable to the decision. Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d
801, 804 (Minn.
2002). The SURJ’s decision will not be
reversed if it is reasonably supported by the record. Tuff v.
Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn.
1995). When reviewing questions of law,
such as whether an employee had good cause to quit, this court conducts de novo
review. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).
an employee quits employment because of “a good reason caused by the employer,”
the employee is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn.
Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1), (3) (2004).
“A good reason caused by the employer” is defined as 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 remain in the
subd. 3(a). Additionally, “[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
subd. 3(c). For example, this court has
held that a substantial wage reduction, a loss of hours, and change in schedule
provided a good reason to quit. Rootes v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc., 669
N.W.2d 416, 419 (Minn.
App. 2003). Also, good reason to quit
was found where a unilaterally imposed pay reduction of 21-26% created
“unreasonably onerous” employment terms.
Sunstar Foods, Inc. v. Uhlendorf,
310 N.W.2d 80, 84-85 (Minn.
argues that the record supports the SURJ’s conclusion that relator did not have
a good reason to voluntarily quit because she did not investigate the new
location before rejecting it. Respondent
argues that relator was unwilling to work anywhere her existing customers would
not go, and did not discuss with Walch in detail how many new customers she
could expect to obtain at the Fridley
salon. Respondent’s arguments have
supports the conclusion that the only thing relator investigated was whether
her existing clients would have gone to the Fridley salon and not whether she would have
obtained new clients. Relator’s
contention that she would have suffered a 30% reduction in income is not
supported in the record. Walch testified
that as a rule of thumb, relator could expect about 70% of her existing
customers would follow her to the new location and that she would gain extra
customers at the new location. The
SURJ’s conclusion that a reasonable worker “would have gone to the new location
and made a good faith effort to continue employment before reasonably
concluding whether the new situation was viable” is sufficiently supported in
also contends that her situation is similar to Rootes. But Rootes is factually
distinguishable. In Rootes, supra, the claimant’s supervisor required her to decide by
the end of her shift whether she would resign or accept a lesser position. 669 N.W.2d at 418. Although the claimant did not inquire into
the details, it was undisputed that she would be demoted from a grocer
department manager to either a stocking or cashier position, her pay would be
reduced, and she would be required to work a different shift, and work
weekends. Id. Consequently, we held that the employee had a
good reason to quit existed even though she did not inquire about the precise
nature of the adverse change in employment.
Rootes, 669 N.W.2d at 418-19. Here, relator did not investigate the
transfer option and merely speculates about her potential loss of
clientele. Moreover, the new location
did not involve a demotion, a change in shift, or that she work weekends.
Relator’s case is almost identical to the claim
brought by relator’s co-worker, Johnson, against respondent. Johnson v. Walch & Walch,
N.W.2d 799 (Minn.
App. 2005). In Johnson, the claimant refused to transfer to Brooklyn
Center when the Apache
Plaza location closed on
the basis that her elderly customers would not follow her to the new location. Id. at 800. On those facts, we concluded that refusing
the employer’s offer to relocate due to her apprehension of losing income did
not constitute a good reason to quit. Id.
at 802. We concluded that before
quitting, Johnson should have sought more information from the employer about
the replacement position or tried to work at the alternative location. Id. Like Johnson,
relator failed to obtain the basic information about the new location before
argues that Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(3) is not applicable. Under that section, an individual may accept employment and quit “within 30 calendar days of
beginning the employment because the employment was unsuitable for the
applicant” without being barred from receiving unemployment benefits. Id. Thus, to demonstrate substantial adverse change
in wages, hours, or other terms of employment, the statute gives an employee 30
days to investigate a new employment option.
But subdivision 1(3) applies because relator could have tried working at
the new location for up to 30 days without being disqualified for unemployment
benefits. Instead, relator chose to
contends that the SURJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence in
the record. Relator contends that the
commissioner’s finding that she “only wanted to work on her exact same
clientele” was not supported in the record.
Relator’s argument lacks merit.
evidence is defined as “1. Such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;
2. More than a scintilla of evidence; 3.
More than some evidence; 4. More than any evidence; and 5. Evidence considered in its entirety.” White
v. Minn. Dep’t of Natural Res., 567 N.W.2d
724, 730 (Minn.
App. 1997). Under the substantial
evidence test, a reviewing court evaluates “the evidence relied upon by the
agency in view of the entire record as submitted.” Cable
Commc’ns Bd. v. Nor-west Cable Commc’ns P’ship., 356 N.W.2d 658, 668 (Minn. 1984). If an agency’s decision was reached by
reasoned decisionmaking, then a reviewing court will affirm, even though its
conclusion may have been different had it been the factfinder. Id. at 669.
the course of the hearing, relator made it clear that her intention was to work
with her existing customers. Here, there
is evidence on the record that supports the commissioner’s findings. When asked whether she would go to Brooklyn Center, relator
stated, “Well, no, because my customers would not go to either, and he offered
nothing more.” Regarding the distance
required to travel to the new location, relator stated, “I never said it was
too far for me . . . . It was my
customers, my clients.” Again when asked
whether she looked into the Brooklyn
Center salon, she stated, “No, because that would be
commission, straight commission also, and my customers would not go there.”
on our review of the record, we conclude that the SURJ’s conclusion that
relator only wanted to work with her exact same clientele, and that she quit
her employment without good cause was sufficiently supported in the record.