This opinion will be unpublished and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
Elizabeth L. Proudfoot,
Wellbridge Club Management, Inc.,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed January 9, 2007
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 11659 05
Elizabeth L. Proudfoot,
Wellbridge Club Management, Inc.,
Linda A. Holmes, Lee B. Nelson, Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent department)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Hudson, Judge
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the unemployment law judge’s decision disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits, arguing that the judge erred by finding that she quit without good reason caused by the employer, and that the judge conducted the hearing improperly. Because we find that the unemployment law judge did not err by finding that relator quit her job without good reason caused by the employer, and that there was no impropriety in the hearing, we affirm.
Relator Elizabeth Proudfoot worked as a massage therapist for respondent Wellbridge Club Management, Inc. After receiving various work-related complaints about Proudfoot, two club managers, one male and one female, met with Proudfoot to discuss her job performance.
The female manager left the meeting several times to attend to other matters, leaving Proudfoot alone with the male manager. Proudfoot alleges that the male manager sexually harassed her while they were alone by telling her to uncross her arms and legs, and to use her body to attract customers. The male manager denied making those specific comments, but admitted to commenting on her defensive body language during the meeting.
After another meeting and various phone conversations with club management, Proudfoot sent Wellbridge a letter ending her employment. She stated in her letter that it was too difficult to return to Wellbridge because of the stress of the recent events.
Proudfoot then applied for unemployment benefits, and a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) adjudicator found that she was qualified to receive benefits. Wellbridge appealed and a hearing was held before an unemployment law judge (ULJ). Although Wellbridge failed to provide a witness list before the hearing, the ULJ did not postpone the hearing because Proudfoot agreed to proceed.
Based on the evidence presented, the ULJ found that Proudfoot quit her employment without good reason caused by the employer, and was therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits. Proudfoot filed a request for reconsideration, and the ULJ affirmed his decision. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
court will reverse a ULJ’s decision when it reflects an error of law, is
“arbitrary or capricious,” or the findings are “unsupported by substantial
evidence in view of the entire record.” Minn. Stat. § 268.105,
subd. 7(d) (Supp. 2005).
court defers to the ULJ’s determinations regarding witness credibility and conflicting
evidence. Skarhus v. Davanni’s, Inc., 721 N.W.2d 340, 344 (Minn. App. 2006). “When the parties have presented conflicting
evidence on the record, this court must defer to the [ULJ’s] ability to weigh
the evidence; we may not weigh that evidence on review.” Whitehead
v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (
1. Voluntary Quit
Proudfoot argues that she was
“constructively discharged” and did not quit.
The distinction is significant because an employee who voluntarily quits
is generally disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (2004). A discharged employee, on the other hand, is
only disqualified from receiving benefits if the discharge was for
A quit occurs “when the decision to end the employment
was, at the time the employment ended, the employees.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2004). A discharge occurs “when any words or actions
by an employer would lead a reasonable employee to believe that the employer
will no longer allow the employee to work for the employer in any
The record fully supports the ULJ’s finding that Proudfoot quit her employment. Wellbridge management never indicated to Proudfoot that she could not continue working at Wellbridge. On the contrary, the communications between Wellbridge and Proudfoot dealt with expectations for her continued employment at the club. Moreover, Proudfoot’s letter to Wellbridge and her testimony show that it was her decision not to return to work. Therefore the record supports the ULJ’s decision that Proudfoot voluntarily quit. The next issue is whether, despite quitting, Proudfoot is still entitled to receive unemployment benefits.
2. Quit For Good Reason Caused By Employer
Proudfoot argues that she was forced to quit because Wellbridge created a hostile work environment, subjected her to sexual harassment, and breached her employment contract.
An employee who voluntarily quits is still entitled to
unemployment benefits if the decision to quit is the result of a good reason
caused by the employer.
For example, an employee generally has good cause for
quitting if the employer substantially reduces pay or unreasonably changes the
terms of employment. Rutten v. Rockie Int’l., Inc., 349
N.W.2d 334, 336 (
Proudfoot argues that Wellbridge created a hostile work environment during her meetings with management, forcing her to quit. The evidence supports the ULJ’s finding that Wellbridge’s assessment of Proudfoot’s job performance does not constitute a good reason for quitting caused by the employer. The record does not show that the managers acted unreasonably in addressing concerns over Proudfoot’s work. Additionally, the criticism directed toward Proudfoot’s job performance, as well as comments about her attitude, would not compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remain in the employment. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a). Any frustration or dissatisfaction that Proudfoot felt over the comments is not a good reason to quit. See Ryks, 410 N.W.2d at 382.
Proudfoot also argues that a Wellbridge manager subjected
her to sexual harassment and that other managers failed to adequately
investigate her claims, forcing her to quit. Sexual harassment qualifies as a good reason
for quitting caused by the employer.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(f) (2004). The employer must have been aware, or should
have been aware, of the sexual harassment, and failed to take timely and
Whether one engaged in the
actions underlying the sexual harassment claim
is a question of fact. Fore v. Health Dimensions, Inc., 509
N.W.2d 557, 560 (
The parties presented conflicting evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding the alleged sexual harassment. Proudfoot testified that a manager, while alone with her during a meeting, told her to uncross her arms and legs, and to use her body to attract customers, which intimidated her. The manager testified that he only commented on her arms being crossed as a sign of defensive attitude during the meeting, and that he never told her to uncross her legs or to use her body to attract customers. The ULJ accepted the manager’s testimony as true, and we will not reweigh the conflicting evidence on review. Whitehead, 529 N.W.2d at 352. Furthermore, there is nothing in the record to suggest that the ULJ’s credibility determination was erroneous.
The ULJ found, and we agree, that the comments “did not rise to the level of sexual harassment as defined under the law . . . .” The manager’s comments do not fit the statutory definition of sexual harassment in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(f), and therefore did not amount to a good cause for Proudfoot to quit caused by the employer.
Proudfoot also argues that Wellbridge management failed to investigate her sexual-harassment claim, forcing her to quit. The ULJ found that Wellbridge took immediate action to investigate the allegation when Proudfoot complained. The record supports the ULJ’s finding, as the manager fully documented his time alone with Proudfoot, and the other managers’ statements indicate they investigated her claim. Any frustration or dissatisfaction with Wellbridge’s conclusions regarding her claim is not a good cause for quitting caused by the employer. See Ryks, 410 N.W.2d at 382.
Finally, Proudfoot argues that Wellbridge breached her
employment contract by not paying her appropriately and violated privacy laws,
forcing her to quit. Proudfoot did not
raise these issues during the hearing, and the ULJ did not address either claim
in its decision. Because Proudfoot did
not raise these issues until this appeal, we need not address them here. Thiele
v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (
3. Hearing Procedure
Proudfoot also argues that the ULJ erred during the hearing by not requiring a witness list, by considering hearsay, and by not accepting a performance review she offered into evidence.
A ULJ “shall not be bound by statutory and common law
rules of evidence. The rules of evidence
may be used as a guide in a determination of the quality and priority of
Proudfoot argues that the ULJ erred by not requiring Wellbridge to produce a witness list after she made a written demand under Minn. R. 3310.2914, subd. 2. But Proudfoot admitted that she would not have prepared differently had she received the list and she agreed to proceed with the hearing. Therefore, Proudfoot has not shown that she was prejudiced as a result of not receiving the requested witness list, and the ULJ did not err by proceeding with the hearing.
Proudfoot also argues that the ULJ erred by accepting
hearsay testimony from certain witnesses and should have required testimony of
a manager absent from the hearing. Proudfoot
does not show that the ULJ relied on any hearsay evidence in reaching its
decision. But even if the ULJ relied on
hearsay, it is acceptable under the rules if it is the type of evidence on
which reasonable, prudent persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of
their serious affairs.
Finally, Proudfoot argues that the ULJ erred by not admitting
her 2003 performance review into evidence for being “[t]oo late in time,” after
admitting a document from 2000. The
performance review she attempted to admit into evidence did not relate to the
issues of whether she quit or if she quit with good reason caused by the
employer. Because the performance review
was irrelevant, the ULJ did not err by refusing to admit it into evidence.
 This statutory standard of review applies to
ULJ decisions made on or after June 25, 2005.