This opinion will be unpublished and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

A05-1871

 

Lillie McJimsey,

Relator,

 

vs.

 

Dolphin Industrial Staffing,

Respondent,

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development,

Respondent.

 

Filed August 1, 2006

Reversed

Halbrooks, Judge

 

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 508905

 

 

Thomas H. Boyd, Michael E. Obermueller, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., 225 South 6th Street, Suite 3500, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for relator)

 

Dolphin Industrial Staffing, 258 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1995 (respondent)

 

Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, E200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)

 

 

            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HALBROOKS, Judge

            Relator challenges the senior unemployment-review judge’s decision that she is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Relator argues that she should not have been deemed to have quit her employment because under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(d) (2004), the job assignment was not suitable for her, and she did not complete it.  Because there is no evidence in the record to conclude that the job was suitable and completed, we reverse.

FACTS

            Relator Lillie McJimsey was an employee of Industrial Staffing (Industrial), a temporary-employment agency.  Industrial is a sister company to respondent Dolphin Industrial Staffing or Dolphin Clerical Group (Dolphin).  Relator secured temporary employment through Industrial as a manufacturing-team member at Medtronic on January 12, 2005.  Following one day of training, relator was asked to perform a math calculation of the type that the position required.  She was unable to perform the calculation, and, as a result, Medtronic had her watch other people work for the next four days.  On January 27, 2005, Benjamin Breit, an employee of Industrial, called relator to inform her that she was no longer needed at Medtronic and that she should not return to work there.  According to relator, Breit also advised relator that there were no positions currently available at her level and that she would be contacted when suitable work was available. 

At the commencement of her employment with Industrial, relator signed a document that recited Industrial’s policy and the statutory requirement that, when one temporary job assignment ends, it is the employee’s responsibility to inform Industrial, within five days, that she is available for future employment.  After Breit advised relator that she should not return to Medtronic, relator failed to contact Industrial to inform it that she was available for future job assignments or to inquire as to available job assignments.

Relator applied for unemployment benefits, and respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development (department) initially determined that she was not disqualified from receiving benefits.  The department sent notice of its determination to Dolphin, not Industrial.  On the notice, the department stated that relator’s benefits would be charged to Dolphin’s experience-rating account.  Dolphin forwarded the notice to Industrial, who then appealed the department’s determination to an unemployment-law judge (ULJ). 

The ULJ reversed the department’s determination and concluded that relator was disqualified from receiving benefits based on a finding that relator quit her employment without good reason caused by her employer because she did not contact Industrial within five days to inform them that she was available for additional job assignments.  Relator appealed the ULJ’s determination to a senior unemployment-review judge (SURJ), who affirmed the ULJ’s determination.  This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

            On certiorari appeal, this court reviews the decision of the SURJ.[1]  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  The SURJ’s findings are a mixed question of law and fact.  Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., Inc., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).  The standard of review in economic-security cases is narrow.  Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383 (Minn. 1992). 

Findings of fact must be viewed in the light most favorable to the decision, and if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed.  When reviewing questions of law, this court is not bound by the Commissioner’s conclusions of law, but is free to exercise its independent judgment.  The issue of whether a claimant is properly disqualified from the receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law.

 

Id. at 383-84 (citations and quotation omitted).

 

I.

 

Relator contends that the department lacked jurisdiction over Industrial Staffing’s (Industrial) appeal of the ULJ’s nondisqualification determination because Industrial lacked standing.  Relator asserts that because the department’s notice of nondisqualification stated that Dolphin was the notified employer and that relator’s benefits would be charged to its experience-rating account, only Dolphin had standing to contest the notice.

A person has standing if he or she can show an interest arguably among those intended to be protected by the applicable statute.  Twin Ports Convalescent, Inc. v. Minn. State Bd. of Health, 257 N.W.2d 343, 346 (Minn. 1977).  Further, the party must show “injury in fact.”  See id. (adopting injury-in-fact test for standing).

When an applicant seeks unemployment benefits, she must provide the department with information regarding her work history.  Minn. Stat. § 268.101, subd. 1(a) (2004).  Then, based on the information provided by the applicant, the department notifies each potentially affected employer.  Id., subd. 1(b) (2004).  The applicant and each notified employer are able to raise issues regarding the applicant’s qualification for benefits, id., and the department makes a determination of disqualification or nondisqualification, id., subd. 2(a) (2004).  Following the department’s qualification determination, both the applicant and the notified employer have the right to appeal the determination within 30 calendar days of the mailing of the determination.  Id., subd. 2(e) (2004).  The department’s determination “shall be final” absent a timely appeal.  Id. 

Here, the department notified Dolphin that relator had filed for unemployment benefits and that it had determined that she was not disqualified from receiving benefits.  The notice stated that relator was an employee of Dolphin and that her unemployment benefits would be charged to Dolphin’s experience-rating account.  Dolphin never filed an appeal of that determination, but instead forwarded the notification to Industrial, Dolphin’s sister company and relator’s actual employer.

It is undisputed that relator was never an employee of Dolphin.  Within 30 calendar days, Industrial filed an appeal of the department’s determination of nondisqualification.  The ULJ heard the appeal; during the telephone hearing, a representative from Industrial informed the ULJ that Dolphin and Industrial are sister companies and that relator was an employee of Industrial.  The ULJ stated that she would correct the error.

Dolphin and Industrial are intertwined corporations, not two separate and distinct companies.  Thus, the fact that Dolphin forwarded the notice of nondisqualification to Industrial and Industrial commenced the appeal is sufficient for standing purposes.  Moreover, relator has not suffered prejudice as a result of allowing Industrial to proceed with this appeal.

II.

 

Whether an employee has a good reason to quit caused by the employer is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).  In general, an applicant who quits employment without a good reason caused by the employer is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2004).  The issue of good cause to quit is a question of law that “is not binding on this court if it does not have reasonable support in the findings.”  Dachel v. Ortho Met, Inc., 528 N.W.2d 268, 269 (Minn. App. 1995). 

Additionally, for temporary employees, as relator was, “[a]n applicant who, within five calendar days after completion of a suitable temporary job assignment from a staffing service employer, (1) fails without good cause to affirmatively request an additional job assignment, or (2) refuses without good cause an additional suitable job assignment offered” is deemed to have quit employment.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(d) (2004). 

The SURJ’s conclusion that relator quit her employment is based on relator’s undisputed failure to contact Industrial within five days of leaving Medtronic.  But as a consequence, the SURJ assumes, without analysis, that relator’s temporary job assignment at Medtronic was both suitable and completed.  On appeal, relator contends that because her job assignment at Medtronic was not suitable for her and she did not complete it, she did not quit her employment.  Industrial argues that there is no evidence in the record that the job was unsuitable for relator.  Similarly, Industrial alleges that because relator was no longer needed at Medtronic, her job assignment was completed. 

In order to resolve this matter, we begin with the statutory language.

When interpreting a statute, we first must determine whether the statute’s language, on its face, is clear or ambiguous.  A statute is only ambiguous when the language therein is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation.  Basic rules of statutory construction instruct that words and phrases are to be construed according to their plain and ordinary meaning.

 

Baker v. Ploetz, 616 N.W.2d 263, 268 (Minn. 2000) (quotations and citations omitted).  In addition, “[a] statute should be interpreted, whenever possible, to give effect to all of its provisions, and no word, phrase, or sentence should be deemed superfluous, void, or insignificant.”  Id. at 269 (quotation omitted).

            Here, the statute provides the bases on which a temporary employee may be considered to have quit her job; but those bases apply only “after completion of a suitable temporary job assignment.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(d). 

            The word “suitable” is a recent addition to this subsection of the statute, as the legislature added it in 2003.  2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. Ch. 3, art. 2, § 12.  But because it is a term that is used elsewhere in the statute, its definition from that area is helpful to our analysis here.

Suitable employment means employment in the applicant’s labor market area that is reasonably related to the applicant’s qualifications.  In determining whether any employment is suitable for an applicant, the degree of risk involved to the health and safety, physical fitness, prior training, experience, length of unemployment, prospects for securing employment in the applicant’s customary occupation, and the distance of the employment from the applicant’s residence shall be considered. 

 

Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 23a(a) (2004).  The SURJ “is vested with wide discretion to determine whether offered work is suitable.”  Mastley v. Comm’r of Econ. Sec., 347 N.W.2d 515, 518 (Minn. App. 1984).  But in this case, the SURJ made no findings regarding whether the work at Medtronic was suitable for relator.

Relator contends that she did not quit her employment at Industrial by failing to contact the company within five days of leaving her position at Medtronic because she was not suited for the Medtronic job assignment for the reason that either her mathematics skills were insufficient for the position or because she had difficulty using the microscope.  The record supports relator’s position.  Relator testified that instead of having her work with a microcope, Medtronic placed her in a different assignment—packing magnets.  Industrial argues that relator was not discharged due to her inability to perform the tasks, but simply because Medtronic no longer needed her.  But Breit, himself, testified that there may have been an issue with relator’s use of the microscope.

With respect to the issue of whether relator completed the assignment at Medtronic, there is nothing in the record regarding the anticipated length of relator’s job assignment at Medtronic.  Relator contends that it was an ongoing job assignment, meant to last beyond January 27, 2005.  Industrial contends that the job ended because Medtronic had no additional work for relator to do.  But again, the SURJ made no findings on this issue.

Because the SURJ made no findings regarding the suitability of the Medtronic job assignment for relator and whether relator completed the Medtronic job assignment in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(d), and because there is no evidence in the record to sustain such findings, we conclude that relator did not quit her employment with Industrial as contemplated under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(d).

            Reversed.



[1] The decision-maker conducting this review proceeding was the senior unemployment-review judge rather than the commissioner’s representative.  2004 Minn. Laws ch. 183 § 71.