This opinion will be unpublished and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
Kimberly J. Gura,
Paul Stafford Electric, Inc.,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed December 26, 2006
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 13779 05
Kimberly J. Gura, 8816 Brunswick Path,
Paul Stafford Electric, Inc.,
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 department)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.*
Relator argues that the unemployment law judge (ULJ) improperly determined that she quit her employment without good reason caused by her employer, alleging that she had good reason to terminate her employment because (1) she worked in an adverse environment for more than a year; (2) the adverse environment was created and facilitated by her employer, who was informed about the situation but did not take appropriate actions to rectify it; (3) there was miscommunication at the hearing about questions posed to her by the ULJ; and (4) she never received information as to a question regarding her initial denial of benefits by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). We reverse.
Kimberly Gura worked for respondent Paul Stafford Electric, Inc. (Stafford
Electric) from April 2004 until August 15, 2005. Although relator began as a part-time
employee, when she resigned from her position she was a full-time office
manager earning $50,000 per year plus a percentage of the business. Stafford Electric is co-owned and managed by Paul
Stafford and rents office space from
Relator first learned in April 2005 that Karen Stafford was uncomfortable with her presence at the office apparently because of an affair Paul Stafford had with another office employee several years earlier. Relator claims that over the next several months, Karen Stafford repeatedly told others falsehoods about relator’s relationship with Paul Stafford. In May 2005, relator was confronted at work by Paul and Karen Stafford’s daughter, who accused relator of having an affair with Paul Stafford. Relator later informed Paul Stafford of his daughter’s accusations and was told by Paul Stafford that his daughter would not bother her again, and, if she did, relator could call the police and have his daughter removed from the office.
On August 5, 2005, Karen Stafford had a meeting with one of relator’s coworkers and told the coworker that Paul Stafford and relator were having an affair or would have an affair in the future. After learning later that day from her coworker what Karen Stafford had said, relator drafted a letter of resignation, which she left on Paul Stafford’s desk.
Sometime between August 5, 2005, and August 11, 2005, relator and Paul Stafford again met to discuss the situation. At this time, Paul Stafford told relator that Karen Stafford believed that either Karen, Paul Stafford, or relator would “have to leave.” Paul Stafford also requested that relator meet with Karen Stafford, himself, and their therapist in an attempt to resolve the issues. After initially agreeing to participate in the meeting, relator later withdrew her agreement.
On August 11, 2005, another owner of Stafford Electric discovered relator’s resignation letter and informed Paul Stafford of its contents. Relator’s final day of work for Stafford Electric was August 15, 2005.
The sole issue on appeal is whether relator quit her employment with Stafford Electric because of a good reason caused by the employer.
An individual who voluntarily
terminates his or her employment has the “burden of proving good cause to
resign that was attributable to [his or her] employer.”
(a) A good reason caused by the employer for quitting is a reason:
(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible;
(2) that is adverse to the worker; and
(3) that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.
. . . .
(c) If an applicant was subjected to adverse working conditions by the employer, the applicant must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions before that may be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.
The ULJ determined that relator was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because no exception to the disqualification applied. Specifically, the ULJ concluded that while Karen Stafford and her daughter treated relator in a way that made her feel uncomfortable at work, because neither of them were employees of Stafford Electric “[t]he reason for [relator’s] resignation was not caused by Paul Stafford Electric,” and thus “the employer” was not responsible under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a)(1), for relator quitting her employment.
in this certiorari appeal, respondent Department of Employment and Economic
Development (DEED) advised this court that they believe the ULJ erred in his
decision as a matter of law and that relator should not be disqualified from
receiving benefits. DEED stated in its
letter that “the businesses owned by Mr. and Mrs.
We agree. The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that
“[t]he disqualification statute does not require that all causal factors in a termination flow from the employer, but
that termination be wholly without good cause attributable to the
employer.” Hanson v. I.D.S. Props. Mgmt. Co., 308
Here, even though Karen Stafford and her daughter were not employees of Stafford Electric, we conclude that there was still good cause for relator’s decision to terminate her employment that is directly attributable to Stafford Electric. Relator made known to Paul Stafford the accusations and rumors that his wife, Karen Stafford, was conveying to Stafford Electric employees and the effect the discussions were having on the office environment, but Paul Stafford was unable to stop his wife from having such discussions. In addition, Paul Stafford’s request that relator meet with himself, Karen Stafford, and their therapist, to discuss the situation and attempt to calm Karen Stafford’s worries was inappropriate and clearly outside the duties of relator’s employment with Stafford Electric. Finally, there is some evidence in the record to suggest that Karen Stafford had at least some authority over relator and the work relator performed as a result of the two businesses operating in such a close manner. Therefore, while Stafford Electric was not wholly responsible for relator quitting her job, we conclude that Stafford Electric was at least partially responsible for the troubling environment created by Karen Stafford. And, therefore, relator had a good reason caused by her employer to terminate her employment under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a).
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.