This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed September 5, 2006
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File Nos. 1816904, 1817004
Knapp, Elizabeth Magnuson (certified student attorney), William Mitchell Law
Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St Paul, MN 5501-135 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the decision that he was unable to work and, therefore, ineligible for unemployment benefits. Because the record shows that relator was unable to work only in the health-care industry but not other industries, we reverse.
Relator Sia Yang was laid off from his employment as a personal-care attendant for a disabled child in July 2004. Yang established a benefits account with the Department of Employment and Economic Development in August 2004 and was awarded a weekly benefit of $350. Yang suffers from high blood pressure, and during the period that Yang received benefits his nurse adjusted his medication. The nurse instructed him that between October 15, 2004, and November 9, 2004, Yang should be “evaluated and get [his] blood pressure under control before looking for employment.” Yang, however, asserted that he ignored his nurse’s advice not to look for employment. The record shows that Yang, who also had work experience as a welder, bus driver, and machine operator, actively sought employment in fields other than health care shortly after he was laid off and between October 15, 2004, and November 9, 2004. As of November 9, 2004, the nurse diagnosed Yang as “[a]ble to work with restrictions,” which included taking medication, checking his blood pressure daily, and attending medical appointments.
The Department was notified that Yang was unable to work for a period during which he received benefits, and it sent a medical/work-search letter to him in November 2004. The letter was not returned. Based on the information received by the Department, an adjudicator determined that Yang was ineligible to receive benefits until his health conditions changed. The Department notified Yang that his benefits were suspended, and he appealed that decision.
An unemployment-law judge (ULJ) determined that Yang was unable to work between October 15, 2004, and November 9, 2004, and concluded that he was ineligible for benefits during that period. Based on the nurse’s report, however, the ULJ determined that as of November 9, 2004, Yang was able to work and, therefore, re-established his eligibility for benefits. The ULJ also required Yang to repay $1,260 in benefits.
Yang then appealed to a senior-unemployment-review judge (SURJ). The SURJ determined that because Yang was unable to work between October 15, 2004, and November 9, 2004, he was ineligible for benefits and required to repay $1,260. Yang seeks review of the SURJ’s decision by writ of certiorari.
D E C I S I O N
challenges the SURJ’s finding that he was unable to work for a period during
which he received unemployment benefits.
This court reviews the findings of the SURJ, and its decisions are accorded
“particular deference.” See Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d
50, 51 (
applicant may receive unemployment benefits for any week during which he is
“able to work and [is] available for suitable employment, and [is] actively
seeking suitable employment.”
The SURJ found that the nurse advised Yang that he was “not to work” between October 15, 2004, and November 9, 2004. Discounting Yang’s argument that he ignored his nurse’s advice, the SURJ stated that the “average reasonable worker would not go against the advice of their medical provider and seek out work, or perform work, after being informed . . . that doing so could jeopardize their health.” Because the nurse “did not believe Yang had the physical ability to perform the usual duties of his usual occupation or other work that is gainful employment engaged in by others,” the SURJ concluded that Yang was unable to work during the period. (Emphasis added.)
argues that while his nurse recommended that he not work in his usual
occupation, nothing in the record supports a finding that he was unable to work
in other occupations. We agree. First, “able to work” refers not only to the
ability to perform the usual duties of one’s usual occupation, but also to the
usual duties of gainful employment engaged in by others.
Our decision is narrow, given the unique facts of this case. It is not meant to entitle disqualified persons to benefits simply by claiming the ability to work in other fields. Here, the record shows only that a medical professional felt that Yang was unable to work in one specific industry. Additionally, nothing in the record supports a determination that Yang was unable to work in other occupations because of his high blood pressure or, had he received an offer, that his health condition would have precluded his ability to perform the job. Had the nurse not limited her opinion to Yang’s “usual occupation” or had the record revealed that Yang was physically unable to perform work in other occupations that are considered gainful employment, our opinion would likely differ.