This opinion will be unpublished and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
Sean K. McGinity,
The Minnesota Orchestral Association,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed January 2, 2007
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 1430505
Richard A. Nelson, Daniel N. Lovejoy, Faegre & Benson, L.L.P., 2200 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for respondent Minnesota Orchestral Association)
Linda A. Holmes, Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
This appeal is from a decision of an unemployment law judge that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he quit his employment and no exception from the rule that an employee who quits is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits applies to relator. We affirm.
Relator Sean K. McGinity worked for respondent The Minnesota Orchestral Association (association) as the manager of a fundraising department. On July 29, 2005, McGinity informed respondent’s director of development, Anne Langaard, that he was resigning. McGinity told Langaard that he had been subjected to a hostile work environment.
The events leading up to McGinity’s resignation were as follows:
In late 2004, McGinity discharged one of the workers he supervised. McGinity did not seek management permission to discharge the employee, and based on past experience, assumed that he had the authority to hire, fire, and discipline the employees that he supervised. After McGinity discharged the employee, he was told that he needed to notify human resources or his supervisor before discharging an employee.
In February 2005, the employee that McGinity had discharged applied for unemployment benefits, and he made statements in his application that McGinity felt were defamatory. McGinity thought that the association should contest the employee’s right to receive benefits, but the association’s director of human resources, Esther Saarela, did not believe that a contest would succeed and decided not to contest the benefits.
McGinity felt that failing to challenge the former employee’s benefits “weakened, or . . . didn’t help [him] enforce the employee agreement in the workforce” and denied him an opportunity to clear his name by challenging the statements the employee made. During a heated meeting on March 2, 2005, McGinity discussed the issue with Langaard and Saarela. McGinity threatened to sue the former employee, and Saarela became frustrated and told McGinity, “I ought to fire you right now.” Langaard calmed the situation, and Saarela later apologized to McGinity.
In May 2005, after learning that McGinity had drafted and was using forms that set forth the rights and responsibilities of workers, Saarela told McGinity to stop using the forms. Saarela had shown the forms to legal counsel and was told that the forms were illegal, needed to be redrafted, and should not be used. McGinity was sent hard copies of the revised forms and asked for his suggestions about changes to the forms. McGinity was upset that he had not received the forms electronically. A human-resources employee told McGinity that Saarela had not given him an electronic copy because she was concerned that he would change the forms or use them without her approval. McGinity felt that this was another situation where Saarela showed that she did not trust him.
In July 2005, McGinity had problems with an employee whose behavior and attendance had become erratic. The employee gave McGinity a one-week notice that she would be quitting. McGinity rejected the one-week notice, made the next day the employee’s last day, and granted her four weeks of severance pay. McGinity did not consult anyone when making this decision. McGinity sent an e-mail to Langaard complaining that he knew that the employee had been to human resources to discuss problems that she had with McGinity, he felt that the employee had gone over his head by going to human resources, and he was upset that he was not informed earlier that the employee was quitting.
Based on all these incidents, McGinity believed that both Langaard and Saarela were not supportive of him and could no longer be trusted, and he resigned. McGinity filed for unemployment benefits, and a department adjudicator determined that he did not quit his employment for a good reason caused by an employer and was disqualified from receiving benefits. McGinity appealed, and following a telephone-conference hearing, an unemployment law judge (ULJ) affirmed the initial determination. McGinity filed a request for reconsideration, and upon reconsideration, the ULJ affirmed the previous decision. This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
This court may reverse or modify the decision of a ULJ if the substantial rights of the employee may have been prejudiced because the ULJ’s findings, inferences, conclusion, or decision are affected by error of law or unsupported by substantial evidence. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (Supp. 2005).
It is undisputed
that McGinity quit his employment. An
applicant who quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment
benefits unless a statutory exception applies.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2005). An exception applies when the applicant “quit
the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1). “What constitutes good reason caused by the
employer is defined exclusively by statute.”
Rootes v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc.,
669 N.W.2d 416, 418 (
contends that he quit because he was essentially demoted when Saarela told him
that he did not have authority to fire people without consulting someone. A demotion can be a reason for quitting that
is caused by the employer. Rootes, 669 N.W.2d at 419. “An employee may also have good cause to quit
if the employer changes the employee’s job to one that requires substantially
less skill.” Dachel v. Ortho Met, Inc., 528 N.W.2d 268, 270 (
2. McGinity contends that he was not allowed to question Langaard and was not allowed to thoroughly question Saarela during the hearing before the ULJ. After Langaard had presented her testimony, the ULJ asked McGinity, “Any other questions for Ms. Langaard,” and McGinity responded, “Questions or comments.” The ULJ apparently interpreted McGinity’s response to mean that he did not have questions, but he did have comments, because the ULJ responded, “I’ll give you a chance to briefly respond.” McGinity did not indicate that he had any questions for Langaard. On appeal, McGinity contends that Langaard’s testimony was false, but he does not identify any questions that he wanted to ask Langaard or Saarela that he was not allowed to ask. Consequently, he has not demonstrated that he was prejudiced by any procedures followed at the hearing before the ULJ.
3. McGinity contends that the ULJ ignored documentation that he submitted with his request for reconsideration to show that Langaard lied under oath and to refute Langaard’s testimony. McGinity argues that Langaard lied about the ending date for the fundraising campaign that he was managing just before he quit his employment. McGinity contends that Langaard lied when she told the ULJ that the fundraising campaign ended on August 31. But McGinity has not explained how testimony about the date the campaign ended is relevant to determining whether he quit his employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.
4. McGinity contends that the ULJ ignored the testimony of several witnesses that Saarela created a hostile work environment. McGinity cites inconsistencies in Langaard’s and Saarela’s written statements and oral testimony and argues that the only way that the ULJ could have found that McGinity made some inflammatory remarks about the decision to not contest the application for unemployment benefits made by the employee that McGinity had discharged was if the ULJ solely relied on Langaard’s testimony and not her written statement.
We review the ULJ’s findings to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence, and we defer to the ULJ’s credibility determinations. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d); Nichols, 720 N.W.2d at 594 (credibility determinations are to be resolved by the ULJ, and this court will defer to the ULJ’s credibility determinations on appeal). Substantial evidence means “(1) such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; (2) more than a scintilla of evidence; (3) more than some evidence; (4) more than any evidence; or (5) the evidence considered in its entirety.” Minn. Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Minn. Pollution Control Agency, 644 N.W.2d 457, 466 (Minn. 2002). As McGinity’s argument indicates, Langaard’s testimony supports the ULJ’s finding that McGinity made some inflammatory remarks. Because Langaard’s testimony is substantial evidence, we will not disturb the ULJ’s finding.
Furthermore, McGinity has not explained how this finding affects the determination that he quit his employment without a good reason caused by the employer. It is not sufficient on appeal to simply identify errors made by the ULJ; it is also necessary to demonstrate that the errors affected the ULJ’s ultimate determination.
McGinity appears to believe that because Saarela said to him, “I ought to fire you right now,” Saarela created a hostile work environment. But even if this statement is evidence of a hostile work environment, McGinity has not demonstrated that his work environment would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit his employment.
5. McGinity argues that the ULJ ignored testimony by a human-resources employee that Saarela had not given McGinity electronic copies of revised personnel forms prepared by counsel because Saarela was concerned that McGinity would change the forms or use them without her approval. But the record provides no basis for concluding that the ULJ ignored this testimony. The fact that the ULJ did not make a finding based on this testimony does not demonstrate that the ULJ ignored the testimony. Referring to the failure to provide McGinity electronic copies of the forms, the ULJ found, “McGinity felt this was another situation where Saarela and his supervisor, Ann Langaard, showed a lack of trust for him.” The ULJ could have made additional findings that explained why McGinity perceived the failure to provide him with the electronic forms as a lack of trust for him. But the reason why Saarela did not provide electronic forms is not relevant to the ULJ’s decision. Saarela did not have to provide the forms to McGinity at all, and even if Saarela did not provide electronic forms because she did not trust McGinity, the failure to provide electronic forms was not evidence of a hostile work environment and was not a reason that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit his employment.