This opinion will be unpublished and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

A05-1755

 

 

Pamela J. Mittag,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Caseys Retail Company (Corp),

Respondent,

 

Department of Employment & Economic Development,

Respondent.

 

 

Filed June 6, 2006

Reversed

Willis, Judge

 

Department of Employment & Economic Development

File No. 7956 05

 

 

Pamela J. Mittag, 1217 Second Street Southwest, Wadena, MN 56482 (pro se relator)

 

Caseys Retail Company, Post Office Box 283, St. Louis, MO 63166-0283 (respondent)

 

Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, E200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent Department of Employment & Economic Security)

 

            Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Willis, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

            Relator challenges the decision of the unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she is disqualified from benefits.  Because we conclude from the undisputed circumstances surrounding the termination of relator’s employment that the termination of her employment was not voluntary, we reverse.

D E C I S I O N

Relator Pamela Mittag worked as a store manager for respondent Casey’s Retail Company from 1996 until 2005.  When Mittag applied for unemployment benefits, a department adjudicator determined that Mittag was qualified because she had been discharged for reasons that did not rise to the level of employment misconduct. Respondent appealed, and, after a telephone hearing and de novo review, a ULJ determined that Mittag was not qualified for benefits because she had quit. Mittag requested reconsideration by the ULJ; the ULJ reconsidered and affirmed his previous decision.  Mittag now seeks certiorari review. 

Generally, “[w]hether an employee has been discharged or voluntarily quit is a question of fact.”  Midland Elec., Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985).  But the ultimate determination of whether an employee is disqualified from receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Ress v. Abbott Nw. Hosp. Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).     

Both “quit” and “discharge” are defined by statute. A quit “occurs when the decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2004).  A discharge “occurs when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer will no longer allow the employee to work for the employer in any capacity.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5(a) (2004).  

Mittag was told in July 2004 that she would be fired if any more complaints were received about her treatment of employees or customers.  More complaints were received in February and early March 2005.  On March 30, 2005, Mittag’s district manager and her area supervisor went to Mittag’s store to fire her because of these complaints. 

They testified about the meeting.  The district manager testified that “we just told [Mittag] that I’ve received three more complaints, she said, fine, I’ll get my keys, and that was it.”  The area supervisor testified, “And we went into the back room and [Mittag] said what’s up, and [the district manager] says, well, it’s not good. . . . we got some more letters.  And [Mittag] says, okay, I’ll get my key, and she got her key and left.”  When asked if Mittag had quit or been fired, the area supervisor testified, “Well, I guess I would say that [Mittag] was fired because when we had suspended her, we had told her that if we received any more letters, that she would be terminated.”

Like the area supervisor, Mittag perceived herself as having been fired when she was told that more complaints had been received.  She testified:  

[W]hen those two called me in the back room, I knew what was going to happen.  . . . And when [the area supervisor,] then [the district manager] goes, well, . . . we’ve gotten some complaints[,] I knew right there what they were doing.  I knew they were going to fire me, and I just said I’ll go get you my keys.  . . .  And when I walked to get my keys and stuff, I guess I would think that that was their opportunity to say . . . we’ll show you these things, you know, we’re not here to fire you, we just want to talk.  But nobody said that because they were there to fire me.  And that’s why when I went and said I’ll give you my keys, they didn’t argue about it because that’s what they were there for.   

 

We conclude that turning in her keys was Mittag’s response to having been fired; it was not a gesture signifying that she voluntarily quit.

As we noted above, a discharge “occurs when any words or actions by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer will no longer allow the employee to work for the employer in any capacity.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 5(a).  Based on the undisputed facts, we conclude that words and actions of Mittag’s district manager and her area supervisor led Mittag to believe that they would no longer allow her to work in any capacity and that within the meaning of the statute, she was discharged.

Reversed.