This opinion will be unpublished and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
Ricki Y. Schultz,
Bartley Sales Company, Inc.,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 1617405
Ricki Y. Schultz, 14210 County Road 40, Carver, MN 55315 (pro se relator)
Bartley Sales Company Inc., 6509 Cambridge Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55426 (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 Peterson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
Relator challenges the unemployment law judge’s determination that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit without a good reason caused by the employer. We affirm.
Relator Ricki Schultz began working for respondent Bartley Sales Company, Inc. in March 1994. On Monday, October 17, 2005, Schultz requested permission to take the upcoming Friday as an unpaid day off, but her request was denied. That Thursday, at 10:44 p.m., Schultz left a voicemail message for Bartley Sales Company’s comptroller stating that she quit effective immediately. But Schultz gave no reason for doing so.
Thereafter, Schultz applied for unemployment benefits. An adjudicator from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (department) denied Schultz’s application, and Schultz appealed. After a hearing before an unemployment law judge (ULJ), the ULJ issued his findings of fact and decision in which he concluded that Schultz was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit without a good reason caused by the employer. But the decision section of the ULJ’s findings of fact and decision mistakenly stated that Schultz “quit the employment because of a good reason caused by Bartley Sales Company, Inc. There is no disqualification.” The ULJ issued his amended findings of fact and decision one week later, in which he changed the decision section to read, “Ricki Y. Schultz quit employment, and is disqualified. No exception to disqualification applies.” (Emphasis omitted.)
Schultz requested reconsideration of the ULJ’s amended findings of fact and decision, arguing that she quit with a good reason caused by her employer. On reconsideration, the ULJ affirmed his amended decision. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
We review the decision of
the ULJ to determine whether the factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence on the record or the decision is affected by error of law. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd.
7(d) (Supp. 2005). Whether an employee
quit without a good reason caused by the employer is a question of law, which
we review de novo. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (
An employee who voluntarily quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless the reason for quitting is a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2005). “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.” Id., subd. 3(a) (2004).
The ULJ found that Schultz quit for personal reasons unrelated to any wrongful acts or omissions of Bartley Sales Company. This finding is supported by substantial evidence on the record. On the Department of Employment and Economic Development Applicant Quit Form that Schultz completed, Schultz identified the following reason for quitting: “Increasingly stressful and hostile environment. Becoming harder and harder to have to go into work daily, headaches increased, pains throughout my body and sharp pains in sides began due to situation.” In response to the form’s question, “Was there a final incident that made you quit?” Schultz stated:
On October 17th wrestled with self whether to ask for the upcoming Friday off without pay or just call in sick because I knew it was going to be a problem since when in August the President told me that my vacation was 2 ½ hours short to be taking the full ten days of vacation. One should not have to be stressed out to have to choose between the truth or a lie when it comes to work.
During the hearing before the ULJ, Schultz cited increased hostility in the workplace and her displeasure at having to complete coworkers’ tasks as reasons for her decision to quit. Schultz also cited the denial of her request to take an unpaid day off as the triggering event that caused her to quit. The record before the ULJ also contained several pages of Schultz’s personal notes beginning in February 2004, which detail when Schultz and other employees arrived at work, took breaks, left work, and took time off. The notes also documented Schultz’s coworkers’ moods and conversations Schultz had with managers and coworkers.
This evidence demonstrates that Schultz quit her employment with Bartley Sales Company for personal reasons, namely, the irreconcilable differences she experienced with others at work and her growing frustration and dissatisfaction with her working conditions, including her employer’s paid- and unpaid-vacation policies. This evidence also establishes that Schultz’s personal reasons for quitting were not the result of any wrongful acts or omissions of Bartley Sales Company that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit. Rather, they were the result of routine frustration caused by working closely with coworkers and management.
ULJ held that these personal reasons for quitting are not good reasons caused
by the employer. We agree. For an adverse working condition to be considered
a “good reason caused by the employer for quitting,” the evidence must show
that the employee complained to her employer and gave her employer a reasonable
opportunity to correct the adverse working condition.
But even if
Schultz had complained, her reasons for quitting do not constitute good reasons
caused by the employer. The definition
of a “good cause attributable to the employer” does not “encompass
situations where an employee experiences irreconcilable differences with others
at work or where the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with [her]
working conditions.” Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d
12, 14 (
also argues that the ULJ’s decision should be reversed because Schultz was denied a
fair hearing. Schultz
maintains that the ULJ was distracted and frequently cut off her
testimony. We have expressed concern in
the past about an incomplete record arising when a ULJ either hinders or does
not help a pro se relator develop relevant issues during the hearing. See,
e.g., Scheunemann v. Radisson S.
Hotel, 562 N.W.2d 32, 34 (
Schultz also maintains that she received unemployment-benefit payments as a result of the misstatement in the decision portion of the ULJ’s original findings of fact and decision and that, after the ULJ amended his findings of fact and decision, Schultz received a notice from the department ordering her to repay the amount that she received. Schultz challenges the department’s order directing her to repay the benefits.
When the recipient of unemployment
benefits is ordered to repay benefits mistakenly paid, the recipient must
appeal that order to the department within 30 days after receiving the notice
The ULJ’s decision that Schultz quit her employment without a good reason caused by the employer is supported by substantial evidence on the record, which was fully developed through a fair hearing. And it is unaffected by legal error. Accordingly, we affirm the ULJ’s determination that Schultz is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.