This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF
Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society,
Department of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed October 2, 2007
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 9088 06
Sheila Sholl, 2217-29th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406-1333 (pro se relator)
Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, c/o TALK UCM Services, Inc., P.O. Box 283, St. Louis MO 63166-0283 (respondent employer)
Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.
Pro se relator Sheila Sholl challenges an unemployment law judge’s (ULJ’s) determination that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Relator filed a claim for benefits while she was on an extended leave of absence from her job as a licensed practical nurse with respondent Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. She claimed that she could not return to her job because her supervisors had harassed her and would have created a hostile work environment upon her return. Because relator’s subjective belief that she was being persecuted and conspired against does not constitute such harassment or unfair treatment so as to compel an average, reasonable employee to quit and become unemployed, we affirm the ULJ’s determination that relator was disqualified from receiving benefits.
On review of an unemployment law case, this court may reverse or modify the ULJ’s decision if the substantial rights of the petitioner have been prejudiced because the decision is affected by error of law, unsupported by substantial evidence, or arbitrary and capricious. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006). We view the ULJ’s findings in the light most favorable to the decision and will not disturb findings that are reasonably supported by the record. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989); Skarhus v. Davanni’s, Inc., 721 N.W.2d 340, 344 (Minn. App. 2006). We defer to credibility determinations made by the ULJ. Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995).
The issue of whether an employee has been discharged or voluntarily quit is a question of fact. Midland Elec. Inc. v. Johnson, 372 N.W.2d 810, 812 (Minn. App. 1985). Whether an employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits is a question of law that this court reviews de novo. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).
1. Quit or Discharge
Relator’s claim for unemployment benefits was initially denied after the department determined that she was not eligible because she was on a voluntary leave of absence. See Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 13a(a) (2004) (applicant ineligible for duration of voluntary leave of absence, which is defined as when work is available but that applicant chooses not to work). At the hearing before the ULJ, relator insisted that she did not quit her job but that she was discharged.
A “quit” occurs when the “decision to end the employment was, at the time the employment ended, the employee’s,” while 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 capacity.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subds. 2(a), 5(a) (2004). The record here shows that relator’s employer would have allowed her to return to work but that relator chose not to return or to respond to her employer’s final request for a meeting to address relator’s concerns. Given this undisputed evidence, the ULJ did not clearly err in finding that relator “quit her employment during her extended leave of absence, because she felt that she would be returning to a hostile work environment[.]”
2. Good Cause to Quit
employee who quits employment is disqualified from receiving benefits unless
one of eight enumerated exceptions applies.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2005). One of those exceptions applies when an
employee quits for good reason caused by the employer, which is defined as 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.” Minn.
Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a) (2004). The
test for reasonableness in this context is objective and is applied to the
average person, not to the supersensitive.
Here, the ULJ found that relator quit her employment “because she felt that she would be returning to a hostile work environment based on the meetings in January and February 2006.” The ULJ further concluded that while relator “may have had good personal reasons for quitting, the evidence on record does not show that [her employer] was unreasonable in meeting with her to discuss the events of January 23, 2006, [or] that her supervisors harassed her in these meetings.”
“A good personal reason does not equate with good cause” to quit. Kehoe v. Minn. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 891 (Minn. App. 1997) (quotation omitted). Irreconcilable differences with one’s employer or frustration or dissatisfaction with one’s working conditions is not a good reason to quit. Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). Relator’s subjective belief that she was being persecuted, while sincere, fails to constitute a good reason to quit under the unemployment statutes. Nothing in the record shows that her supervisors acted unreasonably or treated her unfairly when they disciplined her for remaining at work after the end of a shift, despite several previous warnings not to do so.
may constitute good reason caused by the employer. See
Tru-Stone Corp. v. Gutzkow, 400 N.W.2d 836, 838 (Minn. App. 1987). But the harassment must be reported to the
employer and the employer must be given an opportunity to correct the problem
before the employee quits.
3. Serious Illness Exception to Quit
The ULJ finally considered whether relator might have had medical issues that forced her to quit. This exception to disqualification applies when an employee quits because the employee’s “serious illness . . . made it medically necessary that the [employee] quit, provided that the [employee] inform the employer of the serious illness . . . and request accommodation and no reasonable accommodation is made available.” Id., subd. 1(7). The ULJ determined that while relator “may not have been able to work [because of her medical condition], the evidence on record shows that [the employer] provided her with the accommodation of a leave of absence.”
Indeed, the evidence shows that after the initial six-week leave of absence recommended by her doctor, relator requested and was granted an extended leave of absence to November 2006. When relator decided to apply for unemployment benefits in June 2006, she had not completed this leave of absence or made any other requests for accommodation. Nor did relator submit any additional medical documentation to establish that she suffered from a serious illness that made it medically necessary for her to quit. Under these circumstances, the ULJ did not err in concluding that relator fails to meet the serious illness exception.
We therefore affirm the ULJ’s decision that relator was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.