This opinion will be unpublished and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
J. B. Hunt Transport, Inc.,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 1623005
Ricardo Regis, 1093 Edgerton Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (pro se relator)
J. B. Hunt Transport, Inc., P.O. Box 130, Lowell, AR 72745 (respondent)
Linda A. Holmes, Lee B. Nelson, Department of Employment and Economic Development, E200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Department)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
Relator challenges the unemployment law judge’s determination that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he was discharged for employment misconduct. We affirm.
Relator Ricardo Regis was employed by J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. (J.B. Hunt) as a full-time tractor-trailer driver from June 2005 until October 12, 2005, when he was discharged for failing to report his involvement in an accident while driving for his employer. Regis applied for unemployment benefits, and a Department of Employment and Economic Development adjudicator determined that Regis quit his employment without good reason caused by the employer and was, therefore, disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. This determination appears to have been based on information from a previous employer.
Regis appealed, and a telephonic hearing was held before an unemployment law judge (ULJ). Michael Elliott, an account manager for J.B. Hunt, testified that Regis was discharged because he failed to report damage to the tractor that he was driving on the evening of October 11 and the early morning of October 12. At approximately 3:00 a.m. on October 12, Regis parked the tractor at the J.B. Hunt facilities. When the next driver came on duty at approximately 6:00 a.m. and performed a pretrip inspection of the tractor, that driver discovered damage to the tractor and reported it to Elliott. Because the onboard computer did not indicate any ignition activity between 3:00 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., it was evident that no one had driven the vehicle during this period.
According to Elliott, the mud flaps on the driver’s side and the passenger’s side of the tractor were bent and the ramp brackets were broken and bent on the frame. Given the nature of the damage, it could have been caused only by the driver hooking the frame of the tractor onto the bottom of the trailer, which occurs when a driver makes a turn while the tractor is higher than the trailer. Elliott testified that negligent driving at a location other than the J.B. Hunt parking lot caused the damage. And because a loud noise would have accompanied the damage, it is “highly unlikely” that the damage occurred unbeknownst to the driver.
The driver’s manual issued to all J.B. Hunt employees instructs them to report all accidents and warns that failure to do so will result in termination. Drivers are required to inspect their vehicles before and after every trip. Regis failed to fill out the form for his posttrip inspection on the date the damage was detected. When questioned on October 12, Regis denied having an accident, but he admitted failing to perform a posttrip inspection.
At the hearing, Regis again denied involvement in an accident and speculated that the subsequent driver caused the damage. Elliott refuted this speculation with evidence that the ending mileage reported by Regis and the beginning mileage reported by the subsequent driver were the same and that the first ignition activity following Regis’s trip occurred at the same time the subsequent driver reported the damage.
In his decision dated December 1, 2005, the ULJ determined that Regis was discharged because of employment misconduct. The ULJ granted Regis’s request for reconsideration, and in an order dated January 4, 2006, corrected a factual error and affirmed the determination that Regis was discharged for employment misconduct and, therefore, is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
When reviewing the decision of a ULJ, we may affirm the decision, remand it for further proceedings, or reverse or modify it if the substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the findings, inferences, conclusion, or decision are “(1) in violation of constitutional provisions; (2) in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the department; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) affected by other error of law; (5) unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or (6) arbitrary or capricious.” Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (Supp. 2005).
Whether an employee committed employment misconduct is a mixed
question of fact and law. Schmidgall
v. FilmTec Corp., 644
N.W.2d 801, 804 (
Employment misconduct is “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.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a) (2004). But “[i]nefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, a single incident that does not have a significant adverse impact on the employer, [or] conduct an average reasonable employee would have engaged in under the circumstances” is not employment misconduct. Id. An employee who is discharged for employment misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Id., subd. 4(1) (Supp. 2005).
employer has a right to expect its employees to abide by reasonable
instructions and directions. Vargas v. Nw. Area Found., 673 N.W.2d
200, 206 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied
Regis does not dispute that failure to report an accident, in violation of his employer’s policies, constitutes employment misconduct. Rather, Regis challenges the ULJ’s factual determination that Regis had an accident and failed to report it. Regis argues that he neither had an accident nor caused the tractor to be damaged. The ULJ’s findings, Regis contends, are based on Elliot’s false accusation. As proof of the accusation’s falsity, Regis relies on Elliot’s failure to report the accident to the police, failure to produce photographs of the damage, and failure to provide information about the subsequent driver or evidence from the tractor’s onboard computer. But the ULJ found that, “[w]hile Ricardo Regis denied that he had done any damage to his tractor on his last run, the [ULJ] finds the testimony and documentary evidence presented by J.B. Hunt’s account manager, Michael Elliott, to be more persuasive.” In light of our deference to the ULJ’s credibility determinations, the record supports the ULJ’s findings. After weighing the evidence, the ULJ found that “it appears more likely than not that Regis did, in fact, damage the vehicle that he was driving, and that he was aware that he had damaged it, and that he also failed to report these damages to his account manager as required.”
Regis’s arguments are unavailing because they are rooted in a factual dispute, which the ULJ resolved based on his assessment of witness credibility and evidentiary weight. When the record is reviewed in its entirety, the ULJ’s determination that Regis violated his employer’s policies by failing to report an accident and subsequently was discharged for employment misconduct is supported by substantial evidence. Regis, therefore, is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.