This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A05-1442

 

 

Leonard D. Kokal,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Hill Wood Products, Inc.,

Respondent,

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development,

Respondent.

 

 

Filed March 7, 2006

Affirmed

Minge, Judge

 

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 608205

 

 

Leonard D. Kokal, 110 North Van Buren Avenue, #104, Eveleth, MN55734 (pro se relator)

 

Hill Wood Products, Inc., P.O. Box 398, Cook, MN55723 (respondent)

 

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

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Randall, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N

MINGE, Judge

††††††††††† Relator challenges the decision by the senior unemployment review judge (SURJ) that he was discharged for misconduct and disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.† We affirm.

FACTS

††††††††††† Relator worked as a truck driver for respondent Hill Wood Products from February 14 to February 27, 2005.† His job was to haul a trailer filled with sawdust and biomass to Hill Woodís facility at Minntac, where he was to dump it.† The sawdust and other fuel were then used to fire Minntacís kilns.

††††††††††† On the day of the accident that led to his discharge, relator testified that he hauled and dumped three loads without incident, using the following procedure: He parked the truck so that the trailer was positioned on a ďdump,Ē disconnected the truck, moved the truck eight to ten feet from the trailer, and chocked (blocked) the wheels of the truck.† He then went inside a control room to operate the lift system, which caused the trailer to tip almost 90 degrees, dumping the sawdust out.† At about 10:30 p.m., while dumping the fourth load, relator heard a loud bang as he operated the lift system.† The truck had fallen from the dump mechanism and destroyed an auger.† The truck was valued at $12,000 and the auger was valued at $30,000.† The next day, the employer discharged him because Minntac would not allow him back on its property and the employer no longer had a job for him.

††††††††††† Relator applied for unemployment benefits, but was denied on the ground that he had been discharged for misconduct.† Relator appealed and a hearing was held before the unemployment law judge (ULJ).

††††††††††† At the hearing, testimony focused on whether relator followed the proper procedure in dumping the trailer.† According to the employer, relator either did not park the truck far enough away or did not properly disconnect it from the trailer.† The employer explained that the back of the truck went up with the trailer; hung off the trailer, where it was still hooked; then fell from the trailer; bounced; and fell under the dump.† After the accident, the company completely changed the procedure to prevent similar accidents in the future.†

††††††††††† According to relator, he followed the usual procedure in disconnecting the truck, chocking the wheels, pulling the truck out, and raising the dump when the accident occurred.† While he did not know the cause of the accident, he thought it might be due to a mechanical problem or due to the weather because it was dark, windy, and sleeting.

††††††††††† The ULJ rejected relatorís claim that he had followed the proper procedure, found that he did not properly disconnect the truck from the trailer and ruled that this was negligent conduct displaying clearly a serious violation of the standards of behavior that an employer has a right to reasonably expect from its employees, disqualifying him from receiving unemployment benefits.† The SURJ adopted the findings and decision, and this certiorari appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

††††††††††† An appellate court will review the ULJís findings as adopted by the SURJ in the light most favorable to the decision and will not reverse as long as the evidence reasonably supports the finding.† Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002).† Whether the personís denial of benefits was proper as a matter of law is reviewed de novo.† Id.

††††††††††† Relator first challenges the finding by the ULJ that he did not properly disconnect the truck from the trailer.† Relator argues that he correctly followed the procedure for dumping the load.† The ULJ heard conflicting evidence and made a determination.† Based on the evidence presented by the employer, the ULJ found relator did not properly disconnect the truck from the trailer.† Because there is adequate evidence to reasonably support the finding, it must be upheld.

††††††††††† Relator next challenges the determination that his work performance constituted misconduct.† Under the statute,

††††††††††††††††††††††† [e]mployment misconduct means any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job (1) that displays clearly a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee, or (2) that displays clearly a substantial lack of concern for the employment.

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Inefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, a single incident that does not have a significant adverse impact on the employer, conduct an average reasonable employee would have engaged in under the circumstances, poor performance because of inability or incapacity, good faith errors in judgment if judgment was required, or absence because of illness or injury with proper notice to the employer, are not employment misconduct.

 

Minn. Stat. ß 268.095, subd. 6(a) (2004) (emphasis added).

††††††††††† The ULJ found that although relator did not intentionally cause the damage, his negligent conduct created a safety risk and caused more than $40,000 in damages.† The ULJ concluded that relatorís negligent conduct was clearly a serious violation of the standards of behavior that the employer had a right to expect from its employees.

††††††††††† Relator contends that this decision was based solely on the fact that he damaged expensive equipment.† While he states that he felt bad that the equipment was damaged, he asserts that he does not know the reason for the accident but knows that it was not misconduct on his part because he can point to nothing he did or did not do that caused the damage.

††††††††††† First, because there is adequate evidence to support the finding that relator did not follow the proper procedure, relatorís argument must be considered in light of this finding.† Further, we note that the negligent conduct involved a crucial part of relatorís job, disconnecting the truck so that the trailer could be tipped.† The fact that relatorís negligent conduct destroyed expensive equipment demonstrates the significance of his lapse and the importance of the standard of behavior the employer expected.

††††††††††† Because of the finding that relatorís failure to follow procedures resulted in the destruction of valuable equipment and that his conduct was a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer had a right to expect, we affirm.

††††††††††† Affirmed.