This opinion will be unpublished and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

A06-1153

 

Jaime N. McCoy,
Relator,

vs.

County of Ramsey,
Respondent,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Respondent.

 

Filed May 1, 2007

Affirmed

Stoneburner, Judge

 

Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 3200 06

 

Peter B. Knapp, Supervising Attorney, Derek Birkeland, Certified Student Attorney, William Mitchell Law Clinic, 875 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for relator)

 

Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Jeffrey G. Stephenson, Assistant County Attorney, Ania D. Scanlan, Certified Student Attorney, Ramsey County Government Center West, Suite 560, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent-employer)

 

Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent-department).

 

            Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

 

STONEBURNER, Judge

 

            Relator challenges the denial of unemployment benefits, arguing that because she quit her employment to accept a new job that provided substantially better terms and conditions of employment, and through no fault of her own, the new job became unavailable, the unemployment-law judge (ULJ) erroneously determined that she was disqualified from receiving benefits.  Because we conclude that relator’s new job did not provide substantially better terms and conditions of employment, we affirm.

FACTS

 

            Relator Jaime McCoy worked full time for Ramsey County as a child-protection social worker from August 2003 until she terminated her employment on or about January 29, 2006, to accept full-time employment as a private nanny for a family.  McCoy earned $24.12 per hour at the Ramsey County job.  She was paid approximately $964.80 gross for a 40-hour week but testified that she frequently worked more than 40 hours per week without additional compensation.  The county contributed 5.6% of McCoy’s salary to a public-employee pension program; provided eligibility for group health insurance for McCoy and her three children and paid all but $330 of the $1,235.11 monthly health-insurance premium; provided a $50,000 life-insurance policy at no cost with an option for increased coverage at a reduced cost; reimbursed McCoy at the rate of $0.38 per mile for travel in her car; reimbursed airfare, food, and lodging expenses; provided 12 paid vacation days, 12 paid holidays, and 15 sick-leave days per year; and provided optional short- and long-term disability plans.  The county also provided opportunities for pay increases and advancement.  McCoy was a member of a union that afforded protection for working conditions and job security.

            The nanny position, which, through no fault of McCoy, never materialized, would have paid $16.25 per hour for a 40-hour week and time-and-a-half for overtime, undisclosed pension benefits, no health insurance, 17 paid holidays and two weeks paid vacation.  McCoy, a single mother of three children, would have been permitted to have her children at work after school, and, she asserts, during the school holidays, eliminating the need for child-care expenses.  McCoy presented evidence that the nanny position would have been less stressful, would not have required travel, and would have allowed her to spend more time with her children than her job with the county.  Also, because her income would be lower than the income of her ex-husband, under the terms of her divorce decree, her ex-husband would provide health-insurance coverage for her and the three children.  McCoy asserts that her overall economic situation would have been improved by the change in employment.

            Just before McCoy was to start the nanny job, the family decided to hire a relative instead.  McCoy was unable to regain her job with the county due to a hiring freeze.  McCoy applied for unemployment benefits under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(2) (Supp. 2005), which provides that a person who quits employment is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if the employee quits to accept other employment “that provided substantially better terms and conditions of employment.”  McCoy’s application for benefits was denied, and she appealed.

            Following a hearing, the ULJ issued a decision finding that McCoy was not entitled to benefits because the nanny position did not provide substantially better terms and conditions of employment.  The ULJ affirmed the decision on reconsideration.  McCoy appealed by writ of certiorari.

D E C I S I O N

 

            McCoy does not challenge any of the ULJ’s findings of fact regarding the benefits associated with the two jobs.  The only issue on appeal is whether the nanny position provided substantially better terms and conditions of employment than the county job she left, thereby exempting McCoy from disqualification under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(2) (Supp. 2005).

            McCoy argues that “terms and conditions of employment” must be broader than financial terms and that because the nanny job allowed McCoy to stop traveling, to spend more time with her children, to reduce job-related stress, to eliminate child-care expenses, and to shift the payment of insurance premiums to her ex-husband, the ULJ erred by concluding that the nanny position did not provide substantially better terms and conditions of employment than the job with the county.

            Whether a claimant is properly disqualified from the receipt of unemployment benefits is a question of law reviewed de novo.  Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 384 (Minn. 1992).  This court may affirm the decision of the ULJ or remand for further proceedings, or it may reverse or modify the decision

if the substantial rights of the petitioner may have been prejudiced because the findings, inferences, conclusion, or decision are:

 

(1)       in violation of constitutional provisions;

(2)       in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the department;

(3)       made upon unlawful procedure;

(4)       affected by other error of law;

(5)       unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or

(6)       arbitrary or capricious.

 

Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006).  McCoy seeks to qualify for benefits under an exception to the general rule that employees who quit employment are disqualified from receiving benefits.  See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(2).

            Despite McCoy’s persuasive argument that the nanny position was better suited to her needs, we agree with respondent that the statute contemplates a comparison of the terms and conditions of the positions in question, and not a comparison of which position is more suitable to the personal needs of an individual employee.  It is undisputed that the tangible benefits of the position with the county exceeded the tangible benefits of the nanny position.  And the benefits of the county job are not limited to financial benefits, but include the opportunity for advancement, union representation, eligibility for group health insurance, and optional life- and disability- insurance coverage.  We conclude that the ULJ did not err in concluding that the nanny position does not provide “substantially” better terms and conditions of employment than the county position, even though the circumstances of the nanny position are more suited to McCoy’s personal needs.  Because the ULJ’s decision that McCoy is not entitled to benefits under the exception is reasonably supported by the record and is not contrary to law, we affirm.

            Affirmed.



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.