This opinion will be unpublished and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
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed September 12, 2006
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Jack D. Nelson, 1563 Portland Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for relator)
Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Southwood Motors, a business that purchases used vehicles at auctions in the
Twin Cities area and resells them in the
D E C I S I O N
In [unemployment] insurance cases, whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is a mixed question of law and fact. . . .
. . . .
. . . First, if the facts are disputed, we determine whether there is evidence reasonably tending to support the [ULJ’s] findings of fact. . . .
The second part of our two-step analysis involves a question of law: we apply the law to the facts to determine whether an employment relationship exists. When the facts are undisputed, we move directly to step two, and the determination of whether an employment relationship exists is purely a legal question.
v. Austin Daily Herald, 552 N.W.2d 45, 47-48 (Minn. App. 1996) (citations
omitted). On a purely legal question,
this court does not defer to a ULJ. Ress v. Abbott Nw. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d
519, 523 (
The facts here are undisputed. Relator has a list of drivers and calls one driver for each vehicle purchased on a given day, as well as an additional driver for the shuttle that takes the drivers to the auction lots. Relator is free to call or not call any driver; drivers are free to accept or reject any trip. Drivers are paid $20 for each trip they make and reimbursed for any gas they buy. They choose their own route to relator’s lot and may do personal errands before and during the trip provided that they notify relator ahead of time. Drivers may take the shuttle or use other transportation, and, provided that the vehicle arrives at relator’s lot on a given day, drivers decide when they make the trip. The convenience of other drivers, not of relator, is the dispositive factor in when the shuttle leaves for the auction lots.
Neve concluded that a carrier for a newspaper was an independent contractor based on
undisputed evidence that [the carrier]: (1) had no set working hours; (2) used her own vehicle when performing her task; (3) varied the time and order of delivery without penalty; (4) hired substitutes and helpers when necessary, [the newspaper’s] only requirement being that they adhere to rules governing the end product; (5) was not subject to immediate discharge except for a breach of her contract; (6) received a flat fee based on the size and number of customers on her route; and (7) assumed sole responsibility for her tax obligations.
Neve rejected the department’s argument
that the carrier was an employee because the newspaper instructed her as to the
people to whom she was to deliver papers, whether papers were to be put in
plastic tubes or left on doorsteps, the deadline for delivering, and how to bag
papers in poor weather. “Because these
factors relate to the definition of [the carrier’s] task and not to the means
of accomplishing it, they are not relevant to the employment-status inquiry and
do not support the . . . decision [that the carrier is an employee].”
In light of Neve, we conclude that the drivers are independent contractors.