This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dale W. Leehy,
Verndale Truss, Inc.,
Department of Employment and
Filed April 17, 2007
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 274 06
Brian W. Varland, Stephen F. Buterin, Coleman, Hull & Van Vliet, PLLP, 8500 Normandale Lake Boulevard, Suite 2110, Minneapolis, MN 55437 (for relator)
Verndale Truss, Inc., 402 N.E. Clark Drive, Verndale, MN 56481-2003 (respondent)
Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 1st National Bank Building, Suite E200, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent Department
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Collins, Judge.*
Relator Dale Leehy challenges a decision by an unemployment law judge (ULJ) that affirms on reconsideration an earlier decision disqualifying relator from receiving unemployment benefits. In that earlier decision, the ULJ determined that relator was disqualified because he quit his employment without a good reason caused by his employer, respondent Verndale Truss, Inc. In this certiorari appeal, relator argues that he had good reason to quit when his employer demoted him, changed his schedule, and reduced his pay by 17 percent.
Because the reasons given by relator for quitting would not have compelled an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed, we affirm the decision of the ULJ that relator is disqualified from receiving benefits because he quit his employment without good reason caused by his employer.
D E C I S I O N
review of a ULJ’s decision, this court may affirm, remand for further
proceedings, reverse, or modify the decision.
Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006). This court will affirm unless, in relevant
part, the findings are unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the
entire record or the decision was affected by error of law.
At the hearing before the ULJ, relator claimed that he was discharged. On appeal, he agrees that he quit his employment and focuses solely on whether he quit because of a good reason caused by his employer.
who quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits
unless he or she had “good reason caused by the employer” to quit. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1)
(2006). A good reason is one “(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.” Minn. Stat. §
268.095, subd. 3(a) (2006). “The
determination that an employee quit without good reason [caused by] the
employer is a legal conclusion, but the conclusion must be based on findings
that have the requisite evidentiary support.”
Nichols v. Reliant Eng’g &
Mfg., Inc., 720 N.W.2d 590, 594 (
Relator argues that he had good cause to quit after his employer demoted him, reduced his pay by 17 percent (from $12 to $10 per hour), and changed his schedule. He insists that these are the kind of facts that Minnesota courts have long held to be good reason for quitting. Relator appears to be only partially correct and fails to acknowledge the circumstances that led to the employer’s decision to take action in this case; these circumstances are relevant because they reflect on whether “an average, reasonable worker” would have been “compel[led]” to “quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a).
The statute defining good reason to quit requires a fact-specific analysis and does not endorse a bright-line rule or other mechanical test. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3 (2006). Thus, while a good reason to quit may exist when an employee is presented with a wage reduction of 15 to 25 percent, when an employee is demoted, given a pay cut, or subjected to adverse actions in response to poor or deficient performance, the employee may not have good reason to quit. See, e.g., Hein v. Precision Assocs., Inc., 609 N.W.2d 916, 918-19 (Minn. App. 2000) (holding that employee did not have good reason to quit attributable to employer when employee’s hours were reduced and employee was reassigned to different position in response to excessive absenteeism); Dachel v. Ortho Met, Inc., 528 N.W.2d 268, 270 (Minn. App. 1995) (holding that employee’s demotion does not constitute good cause to quit if demotion results from employee’s inadequate job performance); Cook v. Playworks, 541 N.W.2d 366, 370 (Minn. App. 1996) (holding that 36 percent wage reduction was not good cause to quit when employee experienced demotion and pay cut because of inadequate job performance); Simonson v. Thin Film Tech. Corp., 392 N.W.2d 363, 365 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that 16 percent wage cut, in addition to assignment to less responsible position, was not good cause attributable to employer). The issue is not whether the employer’s actions were reasonable or justified, but whether the average, reasonable employee, when faced with a similar choice, would have felt compelled to quit. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a) (good reason to quit is one that would “compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment”).
The facts of this case are relatively undisputed. Relator was hired by Verndale Truss in December 2005 to work in its saw department. He started at $8 per hour and was quickly given a raise to $8.50 per hour. In January 2006, relator was promoted to the design department, where he earned $10 per hour. In a short time, he was given a raise to $12 per hour. After working in the design department for ten months, it became apparent that relator was unable to adequately perform some of the critical functions required for the job. At that point, his employer offered him a position back in the saw department, at $10 per hour, and proposed that relator assist in the design department several days per week during the “batching” process, a function that relator was apparently good at performing. Rather than accepting these proposed job changes, relator decided to quit.
These facts establish that relator decided to quit and become unemployed rather than remain employed at a job that might have better suited his abilities. He also decided to quit rather than work at a lower wage than he was making as a designer, but at a higher wage than he had been making when he left the saw department. And, despite some confusion at the hearing before this court, the testimony at the hearing before the ULJ specifically established that relator would have continued to work full time but that his schedule would have changed from five eight-hour days to four ten-hour days, thus giving him one day off during which he could have continued to look for another job. Under these facts, we cannot conclude that the average, reasonable employee would have felt compelled to quit and become unemployed rather than remain employed at the position offered to relator by Verndale Truss.
argues that the ULJ erred in concluding that he was also disqualified from
receiving unemployment benefits because he failed to provide notice and an
opportunity for his employer to correct the “adverse working conditions” that
it had imposed upon him. See
The ULJ did not err in concluding that relator was also disqualified because he failed to discuss the offer made to him and to give his employer an opportunity to address his concerns. And, contrary to relator’s claim that any complaint on his part would have been futile, the general manager specifically testified that had relator contacted him, they could have discussed the matter further and possibly created a position for relator that would have better suited his abilities.
We therefore affirm the ULJ’s determination that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he quit without good reason caused by his employer.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.